Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "We Love Our Country" (Rome Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by James Krause & Kevin Mabry)
A popular local artist and concert organizer, Ohio native Kevin Mabry led the band Liberty Street for several years before becoming born again in 1984, after which he devoted himself more fully to Christian music, founded his own ministry later in the decade. Before that, he played plenty of secular music and recorded several LPs and a handful of singles for the Ohio-based Rome Records label. This album includes songs such as "Married Strangers," "Turning The Tables" and "Misery On My Mind," as well as two songs written by Mabry -- "Dreamin' (Watchin' Time Go By)" and "Before Eight Has Turned To Nine." The musicians all seem to be Midwestern locals, with the sessions cut at the Rome studios in Columbus, Ohio.
Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "Green Scene" (Rome Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Kevin Mabry & Jack Casey)
Pointing towards Mabry's later focus on Christian music, this was a Christian/Christmas album with a couple of Dallas Holm songs on it, one by Gary Paxton, and a few secular songs as well, including "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "Tennessee Waltz." Of particular note on this album is the album's pianist and fiddle player, a very young Lionel Cartwright, an Ohio prodigy who was several years away from his 1990s breakthrough in Nashville.
Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "Flat Gettin' It" (Rome Records, 19--?) (LP)
Don Earl Mabury "Cry Along With Me" (Peach Tree Fork Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Earl Mabury & Joe Blasingame)
I have seen this record fondly described by Saint Louis locals as a "classic" and a masterpiece, and I suspect there's more than a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink hipsterism at play here, since Mr. Mabury, a middle-aged crooner of mopey, mournful original country ballads, is a singularly artless singer, hardly an inspiring vocalist, although his performances are obviously heartfelt. And indeed, it's that clunky, earnest, heart-on-his-sleeve quality that creeps up on you and makes this record compelling. As a lyricist, Mabury is pretty rudimentary as well, but this actually transforms his mournful, self-pitying songs into soul-crushing testaments to loneliness and regret -- when he sings "The Saddest Song" or "Can You Hear Me Crying Tonight," it feels real, and it's hard not to be drawn in. Unfortunately, the backing musicians aren't identified, though one suspects they were notable members of the Missouri twang scene... The arrangements are fairly perfunctory, but they do the job... and maybe that's all that was needed. Worth checking out, particularly if you go for naif art -- not faux-naif, but the real thing.
Arlie Mac & Sundance "Po' Fo'ks Musik" (Cow Palace Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Arlie MacCowan & Jerry Trammel)
A longhaired band from Lubbock, Texas band, featuring Arlie MacCowan playing bass, Brian Tidwell on guitar, Bobby Ferguson on fiddle, and Jim Adams playing steel. The album features original songs written by various bandmembers, and some nice cover tunes as well, and several tracks credited to Doyle Haggard, another Lubbock local who was in tight with folks like the Hancock Family Band, The Maines Brothers and singer Larry Trider.
Billy Mac "Double Clutchin', Guitar Pickin' Radio Star" (Jimtown Records, 1976?) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Ward)
A slightly lackluster but ultimately likeable indie-country album. Despite the awesome album art that shows Mac posed on the hood of a shiny, star-spangled, red-white-and-blue Mack truck, and liner notes that give his gear-jamming bona fides, this isn't the grinding, rhythmic set of trucker tunes you might expect. Instead, Mac sticks more to a mid-tempo, acoustic-based sound, often with an almost folk-ish feel. He's more in the light-toned honkytonk tradition of Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, with a bit of Mac Wiseman-esque ballad singing as well, in a style that reminds me of the artists on Starday. The production sounds a little thin, and some tracks (like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" sound muffled in comparison to others -- I'd guess that this album was recorded over a long period of time, in various sessions. The strongest element, though, is Billy Mac as a country auteur: all the songs on this album are originals, and they are well-crafted weepers written in classic country style. The performances might be a bit sluggish, but the songs are gems, definitely worthy of reconsideration by fans of the genre. (BTW: anyone know what year this came out? I'm guessing '76, but that may just be the patriotic Mack truck influencing me...)
The Clay Mac Band "The Clay Mac Band" (Goldust Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Emmit Brooks)
New Mexico fiddler and guitar picker Clay Mac led his band, featuring Ron and Dana Bivens and BoBo Supak, for several decades, putting the first version together around 1970... In the late 'Seventies they had a regional hit with a song called "Boiler Maker," which, sadly, is not included on this album. Mr. Mac and Ms. Bevins appear to have gotten married, and for a while she was plugged as a soloist -- in 1982 they released as single under the name Dana And The Clay Mac Band, and at some point she started performing as Dana Mac. Clay Mac kept his band running for decades, and around 2008 he moved from Ruidoso, NM over to Van Horn, Texas, where he set up shop as a tax consultant, though he continued to do shows in New Mexico and environs.
Ray Mac "Her Unexpected Good-Bye" (Dixie Press, 197--?) (LP)
A complete and absolute mystery disc. I mean like, there is no information about this album anywhere -- not even here! Ray Mac (and I'm sure that's a stage name or nickname) seems to have been from Dallas, Georgia, a town just west of Atlanta. There are not credits or date on this album, and no label name either, though some teeny-tiny print on the back cover gives an address for the Dixie Press, in the Atlanta suburb of Mableton, GA, and an art credit for Roy Wadsworth, whose 2003 obituary mentioned that he was a manger at a printing company. And that's it. This seems to be a mix of covers and originals, though again, there are no credits, so it's hard to say much on that score, either. Anyone know anything about this guy?
Lee Mace's Ozark Opry - see artist discography
Charlie Mack "...Sings Ten All-Time American Favorites" (About Time Productions, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Michael J. Zpevak)
It ain't all country, but for sure some is. Well, okay, maybe mostly just "Sixteen Tons," which personally I always thought was just a little bit too commie pinko to be considered and "American" song... But who am I to judge? Also...is it really okay to display the flag that way, all sideways and everything? Seems like the kinda thing you could get in trouble for. Anyway, no info on where this artist was from, although the label provides an address in Saint Louis, Missouri. Michael Zpevak is credited as doing all the music, so it's possible "Charlie Mack" was just a pseudonym. I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually
Genie Mack "The Magic Lady Goes Trucken, v.2" (Magic Country Music, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Phil York)
Yes, she did spell truckin' with an "e," but she's from Oklahoma, so we'll forgive her. This is an album of mostly original material from a red dirt gal who had a regional hit with a song called "We're Independent Truckers," dedicated to striking semi drivers in 1979... Ms. Mack grew up in Centerville, Oklahoma, and was local performing star back in her teens, before becoming a licensed professional truck driver in 1979, juggling a parallel music career that included a bit of national buzz that lasted for a couple of years. This set was recorded in Dallas, Texas, with a backing band that included steel guitarists Ray Austin and Johnny Blue... Presumably a "Volume One" album also exists, but so far I've only been able to track down a few singles...
J. J. Mack "One Hundred Percent Live At The Lucky Lion" (1971) (LP)
(Produced by Tony Flores, Clyde Jones & J. J. Mack)
An early album from this 'Seventies troubadour. Recorded live at the Lucky Lion nightclub in Newport Beach, California, this finds Mack in a folk-country mode, covering stuff like "Fire And Rain," "Games People Play" and "Poke Salad Annie," as well as an acoustic version of Al Wilson's 1968 soul hit, "The Snake." Mack was originally from Baton Rouge Louisiana, though he seems to have moved around a lot, including stints in Tahoe casinos and lounges... I believe this was his first album.
J. J. Mack "It's A Long Road Home" (1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Stone & J. J. Mack)
This is a pretty swell album of loose, rugged swamp-pop/white country/frat rock soul solidly in the style of John Fogerty and Tony Joe White. J. J. Mack wasn't a tremendously accomplished musician, but he has an amiable presence and this is a solid set overall, mainly packed with cover songs, but also featuring a couple of originals, including the title track, which is a really nice song, as well as the funky, Tony Joe White-ish "It Ain't No Big Thing," one of two originals credited to J.J. Mack. He also plays stuff like "Proud Mary," Chuck Berry's "Memphis," and Hank Williams' "Jambalaya." I think for me the album highlight in his version of Kenny Loggins' "Danny's Song," which is performed in a lazy, chunky bar-band style which completely and unexpectedly reframes the song into a rugged southern rock context while still keeping its original sweetness and down-to-earth sentimentality. It's not clear where (or when) this album was made, though it seems to be a mid-1970s set... There's no address, alas, and few clues to be found among the backing band, which included drummer Doug Altman, Larry Brown (lead guitar), Gregory Krochta (piano) and Michael Rice on bass. Greg Krotcha published a bunch of songs in 1976 and may have made an album, but I couldn't really find out much about any of these guys. At any rate, this record feels very authentic -- a snapshot of a local singer keeping true to his roots. Worth a spin!
J. J. Mack "You Can Make It Dancin' " (Salsoul Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Scheniman)
Wow. Hard to imagine a more unlikely transition, from the laid-back, bar-band Southern rock of his previous album to the redneck/frat rock disco of this album, which was recorded for the nationally-known, New York-based Salsoul label. Recorded just as the disco bubble burst, this one is definitely an oddity, and while it's not the rough-cut twang he did so well, you still gotta give Mack credit for just "going for it," as they used to say. This includes a disco version of "Hang On Sloopy," which was released as a single... it's a terrible rendition, but I'm sure it has its fans.
The MacKay Brothers "Bye Bye Love" (Arc Records, 196--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Weatherby)
The Canadian brother duo of Jim MacKay and Keith MacKay were originally from Sault St. Marie, Ontario, where they worked in Fred Kent's band, The Northeraires, and performed on a weekly TV show hosted by country DJ Don Ramsay. As the album title suggests, they had a classic brother-harmony sound, and packed about half this album with Everly Brothers cover songs. The other tracks, though, were MacKay Brother originals, capitalizing on their previous success composing some of country star Gary Buck's early hits, such as "Nighthawk" and "Suit Of Sorrows." Gary Buck and his band back the brothers on this album, with Bill Bartlett on percussion, Rolly Chambers (rhythm guitar), Neil Flanz (pedal steel), and James Milne on drums, and Buck himself playing bass and contributing glowing liner notes. I'm not sure where Jimmy MacKay went from here, but Keith MacKay landed a gig playing lead guitar in Buck's outfit, and recorded at least one album under his own name.
Keith MacKay "Through Those Swinging Doors" (Arc Records, 196--?) (LP)
Straight-up country covers by Canadian honkytonker Keith MacKay...Plenty of bouncy Bakersfield vibes -- contemporary Merle Haggard and Buck Owens hits along with jaunty novelty numbers such as "I Gotta Call The Law On Me" and "Six Pack To Go." This was MacKay's first solo album; at the time he was working full-time as the lead guitar player in Gary Buck's band. A few tunes are credited as MacKay originals, including "5th Avenue" and "Colour In My Blues"; although uncredited, it seems likely that "I Gotta Call The Law On Me" was also a MacKay original, as he seems to have been the only artist to record it. Alas, the liner notes don't tell us who backed him on this album, though I'd guess it was Gary Buck and his band.
The Bobby Mackey Show "...Featuring Nancy Lee Nelson" (T Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Chuck Rogers)
Independent twang from the greater Cincinnati metro region... Kentuckian Bobby Mackey first hit town around 1970 when he became a member of Delbert ("Red") Jenkins' band, the Country Lads. A few years later he set out on his own, and even bought a nightclub in Wilder, Kentucky, just on the other side of the Ohio River. There's no date on this album, but it definitely looks very late 'Seventies, and since Mackey bought the club in '78, I'd guess it was from right around then. Now, about that club... Apparently Bob Mackey's Music World is the subject of a lot of super-lurid stories of vengeful ghosts and gory murders, satanists and suicides, and has been profiled on numerous television shows and such as one of the "most haunted places in America." Make of that what you will; personally, I'm more bothered by the dingy shag carpet and acoustic tiles. Anyway, this album was produced by a guy named Chuck Rogers, who wrote seven of the ten songs; the others are by Tom Ghent, Ken Westberry and there's one by Carol Jones called "To Satisfy The Weakness In A Man," which sounds awful darn groovy. Other than gal singer Nancy Lee Nelson, none of the musicians are identified, which is a pity. Though Mackey later recorded an album in Nashville, I would assume these were all local guys, possibly one of Rusty York's studio groups. Also worth noting: country singer Jack Reno contributes the glowing liner notes; at the time he was working as music director for radio station WUBE, Cincinnati. As far as I can tell, this was Nancy Lee Nelson's only record.
Bobby Mackey "Introducing Bobby Mackey" (QCA Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Vining, Pete Drake & Bobby Mackey)
Mackey went to Nashville to "introduce" himself on this album, backed by Music City pros such as Mark Casstevens, Buddy Harmon, Dave Kirby, Hargus Robbins, Hal Rugg, Buddy Spicher, Hank Strzelecki, et al. Even though he left his band back home and was recording mostly cover songs, he brought some original material with him, with a song called "Hero Daddy," which they unsuccessfully tried to plug as a single. (Between albums, however, Mackey did have a brief fling on the charts, with Bill Addison's "Pepsi Man," which hit #57 in the charts in '82... Though it was produced with the same studio, it wasn't included on this album.) Mackey self-released this album, and was still selling copies at his club, nearly four decades later. It's worth noting that Mackey also released a slew of singles on a bunch of labels, and later self-released a bunch of CDs.
Bobby Mackey "Truckin' With Bobby Mackey" (CRT/Bobby Mackey Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Hensley, Donny Burton & Bobby Mackey)
Breaker, breaker, Smoky, 10-4, good buddy! Taking a break from the whole haunted-nightclub routine, Bobby Mackey hits the road and recorded a bunch of gear-jammin' trucker songs, with backing by what I believe as an all-local Kentucky band, led by Danny Burton on guitar and piano, along with Kenny Bobinger (drums), Ron Griggs (bass), Bob Lotz (harmonica), David Short (lead guitar), Tim Short (drums), and even some guy (Ray Heckman) on saxophone. Let's head for the haunted HoJo's!
Mackinaw "Legends In Their Spare Time" (GDS Records, 1979) (LP)
A country-funk-grass band from Morton, Illinois with lively covers of songs from various alt-country types, as well as originals by bandmember Gary Carroll. Instruments include pedal steel, piano, saxophone and the great John Hartford even plays fiddle on one song! Are you interested now...? A pretty wild set of cover tunes, with material from as far afield as Michael Nesmith, Rusty Wier, Amazing Rhythm Aces and ex-folkie Michael McGinnis, balanced by some more rock-oriented originals from bandmember Gary Carroll... The album's first side is strongest and most country; Side Two opens with a pretty lame novelty song, "Chipmunk Boogie," a lightweight funk-disco track with sped-up, Alvin-esque vocals that I guess was their answer to "Disco Duck," and it closes with a meandering, lead guitar-centric rock snoozer, "Band At The Road House." But the good stuff is good, and worth checking out if you're a twangfan. Much less "bluegrass" than you'd think from looking at the stickers festooning the guitar case on the front cover.
Rose Maddox - see artist discography
Roger & Janice Maddy "The Place Of My Dreams" (Voyager Records, 1979) (LP)
Roger & Janice Maddy "Become As Little Children" (SPBGMA/John's Recording Studio, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Maurice Killenbeck)
A real gem. This independently-released set of sweet, melodic old-timey/bluegrass tunes features the husband-wife duo of Janice and Roger Maddy who, as far as I can tell were originally from Washington state (where this album was recorded) but moved to Iowa to be closer to family, and where they performed regularly at folk and bluegrass festivals. They dig deep into the sweeter side of the music, with a heartfelt sound that fans of Jim & Jesse, the Stanley Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys should appreciate. To my ears, she had the more rural-sounding voice, although they harmonized nicely and their repertoire is perfect. Most of the songs are covers or traditional material, including a nice version of Don Helms' "Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes," and the Maddys add a few new songs to the genre, including the sentimental "Memories Of Mother," which they co-wrote, and two more that are credited to Roger Maddy, and one track, "Dakota Jane," that was composed by their fiddler, Craig Keene. The picking and fiddling is quite good, including some slick licks from banjoist Dan Young, although this isn't really the drag-racing kind of bluegrass, but rather the more sentimental, old-fashioned style... Which, by the way, I totally love. This album is definitely worth looking for!
Roger & Janice Maddy "Become As Little Children" (CD Baby, 2003)
Though I discovered the Maddys on vinyl, I was surprised -- and quite pleased -- to see that this old stuff is also available on CD. This disc includes the music from both of the albums above, Become As Little Children and The Place Of My Dreams. Sweet!
Bill Madison "Sunday Mornin' Hayride" (Saloon Records, 1973)
Authentic spaced-out, meandering, longhaired, hippie folk music from a New Hampshire-based troubadour who mixed blues-based acoustic picking with a bit of country-flavored pedal steel and whatnot. The songwriting doesn't seem super-focussed, but the album oozes authenticity... After this album came out, Madison started a country-rock group called Them Fargo Bros... and while the band never put out an album(?) they toured widely over the next decade or so.
Liz Madison "Doin' Time: Live!" (Treehouse Records, 1978-?) (LP)
A country gal from Indianoplis, Indiana going the Johnny Cash route with a prison concert recorded live at the nearby Pendleton Reformatory. The set list was all cover songs, including both country and pop numbers such as "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," "You Light Up My Life," "I Got The Music In Me," a couple of Fleetwood Mac songs, Dolly Parton's "Two Doors Down," and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue." She also covers one by Kenny (Sauron) Rogers, but it was the 'Seventies, so we'll forgive her. We have to. Oh, and there's also a version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" -- of course!
Maffitt/Davies "The Rise And Fall Of Honesty" (Capitol Records, 1968)
Maffitt & Davies "October In Oxnard" (Mal Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Kin Vassy)
Yeesh. Ten years after their debut, the Southern California acoustic duo of Clark Maffitt and Brian Davies was still chugging along, but sounding just a little too earnest-folkie for me... Well, actually, way too earnest-folkie for me. A couple of fun songs on here, like the Tom Lehrer-y title track and maybe their cover of Paul Siebel's "Louise," but most of this album is dreadfully serious and lofty, including the muddled "Tribute To Hank Williams," which tries to project too much existential profundity onto Hank, Sr., and lacks musical punch as a result. Not my cup of tea, although I did like Brian Davies' wistful "Wisconsin," which reminds me of Badger State days as well. Definitely the album highlight.
Mack Magaha "The Dancin' Fiddle Man" (RCA Victor, 19--?) (LP)
Fiddler Mack Magaha (1929-2003) was a longtime member of the Reno & Smiley bluegrass band, a gig he left in 1964 to join the Porter Wagoner road show, 'way back in the Norma Jean and Dolly Parton years. Along with his gig in the Wagonmasters, Magaha also worked at the Opryland theme park, in one of their many house bands, and produced several souvenir albums, including those listed below.
Mack Magaha "Plays Bluegrass And Country At Opryland" (Fireside Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Porter Wagoner)
One of several similar-sounding souvenir albums from Magaha's Opryland gig. This set showcases his live band, with banjo picker Mike Barnett, and guitarists Larry Moore and Dean Rutherford, with additional studio help from folks like Bobby Dyson, Dave Kirby and Vic Jordan. Plenty of standard-issue country-grass covers, such as "Fox On The Run," "Orange Blossom Special" and "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," though a novelty number like "Star Wars Grass" adds a little pop culture zing to the proceedings. No date given on the album, but I'm guessing it's somewhere between 1978-80.
Mack Magaha "Live! Bluegrass Country Show At Opryland -- With Special Guest Porter Wagoner" (Fireside Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Porter Wagoner)
Fiddler Magaha called in a few chips and got the bossman, Porter Wagoner, to sit in and sing on a few tunes. The gig was the same, working the small stage at Opryland, though the band's lineup had changed a little... Still Magaha sawing away on the fiddle, of course, with bassist Larry Moore still anchoring the band, and new talent from banjo picker Dennis Bottoms and guitarist Mike Pearson. Okay, so maybe no fiddler should ever record another version of "Orange Blossom Special," but you know you wanna him 'em play "Devil Went Down To Georgia." Right? As with his other Opryland albums, there's no date visible, but judging from Porter's groovy hairstyle, I'd guess this one was from around 1981 or thereabouts. A few years later Bottoms cut some singles for Warner Brothers, but a Top Forty career wasn't quite in the cards.
Mack Magaha & Mark Barnett "Country And Bluegrass Show At The Opry" (MM Records, 19--?) (LP)
Johnny Maggard & Mary Lou Baker "Country Is The Music" (History Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Maggard, B. J. Carnahan & Brad Edwards)
Johnny Maggard "Tell It Country" (Chapparal Productions/History Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Maggard)
Johnny Maggard/Various Artists "Sparky" (Chapparal Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Maggard)
Springfield, Missouri's novelty-oriented Johnny Maggard cut a string of singles on the Chapparal label, with a kind of see-what-sticks approach. This holiday album made my head spin since legendary California songwriter Liz Anderson not only wrote a couple of the songs, she sings on here as well, on "Maybe You'll See Santa Claus" and "Christmas In My Home Town." She and labelmate Mary Lou Baker also released a split 7" together with two tunes drawn from this record, which supposedly was the soundtrack to a film called The Story Of Sparky. Maggard and Baker are the main artists here; Baker may have been from Kansas, having previously recorded for the Comstock record label, in Shawnee, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb. Maggard, whose real name was Robert A. Wyld (1939-2007) later moved to Ocala, Florida, where he passed away at age 72.
Taj Mahal "Giant Step/De Old Folks At Home" (Columbia Records, 1969)
(Produced by David Rubinson)
This is one of the signature records of my youth, along with all the Beatles albums, Joni Mitchell and the Stones... A magnificent double album, divided into two part, and electrified "pop" disc and an all-acoustic companion which was probably my main introduction to the rich sounds of Delta blues and other acoustic styles. On the "pop" disc there is, of course, Taj Mahal's slyly magical cover of Carole King's "Take A Giant Step," as well as a jaunty run-through of Dave Dudley's country trucker classic "Six Days On The Road" and sexy blues grooves like "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," all of which were staples of 1970s "free form" radio. The early '70s were a peak time for Mahal, and his presence on the hippie music scene was unique, for his mix of styles and cheerful, larger-than-life personality. A more modern remaster of Giant Step is certainly long overdue, but no matter what format you discover this album in, it'll be a joyful revelation.
Taj Mahal "The Hidden Treasures Of Taj Mahal: 1969-1973" (Sony Legacy, 2012)
(Produced by David Rubinson, Jerry Rappaport & Taj Mahal)
This 2-CD odds/ends/outtakes collection draws on the same era as Giant Step, and it is a potent set of groovy, compelling material that will remind old fans of what an amazing musician this guy was... Youngsters will get a lot out of it, too: if you're into those funky jug band/old-timey tunes from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, this guy is their spiritual and musical granddaddy. Disc One unearths a dozen studio session gems featuring the same band that backed Taj on his albums, with alternate versions of beloved oldies, while Disc Two presents a full concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. The live material tilts towards more upbeat, rock-oriented party material, "boogie rock," they called it at the time, while the studio tracks reveal Mahal's true genius, his visionary balance between acoustic roots music and modern, hippie-era pop -- most notably his use of the bright tones of a dobro guitar as a lead instrument in an electrified music mix. Listening back, I am struck by how much he managed to bypass rock'n'roll altogether, instead fusing deep-roots acoustic music with smouldering soul and serious funk. There are, to be sure, some spaced-out jam-band excesses, but in a good way: the smoky, erotic groove of "Yan-Nah Mama-Loo" and the sizzling, butt-shaking rhythm of "Chainey Do," are pure gold. The tracks at the end of the first disc were produced by New Orleans soul pioneer Allen Toussaint; the best of these is an experimental psychedelic banjo/wah-wah jam on the Appalachian oldie, "Shady Grove," which adds some unexpected twists to of this old-timey chestnut. Perhaps the best news of all is that this album is the herald of a reissue series that will include all of Taj Mahal's old Columbia albums... and a modern remaster of Giant Step is certainly long overdue. I'm looking forward to days to come!
Bruce Mahan "Cancel The Ransom... I Escaped" (PAS Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by P. A. Summers & Mike De Leon)
An all-original set of alterna-twang from country-folkie Bruce Mahan, a songwriter originally from Columbus, Ohio who moved to Texas in the early '80s, first settling down in Houston, and finally in San Antonio. He's backed by The Walker Colt Band, which consisted of Bruce Mahan on vocals and guitar, Rick Schiller (drums), Herman D. Wilburn (guitar), Dave Wood (bass) and a whole slew of guest performers. All the songs are Bruce Mahan originals; he recorded a second album in 1990 which was also all-original material
Larry Mahan "King Of The Rodeo" (Warner Brothers, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Snuff Garrett & Steve Dorff)
A fine novelty offering by six-time National Rodeo champion Larry Mahan, who didn't have a tremendous voice or anything, but still had the charisma and affability to carry these tunes and make 'em work. Includes a few great half-recited novelty tunes that might have fit in on a Dr. Demento show: "Stunt Man," which laments the hardships of the Hollywood life, "Ha Ha," which sings the praises of getting bloodied up in dumb-ass barroom brawls, and "Rosie's Palace Of Pure Love And Fingertip Massage," which tells the tale of two drunk cowboys getting scammed at a Los Angeles brothel. They don't make records like this anymore. Snuff Garrett co-produced this disc, and some of the songs bear the stamp of his orchestral cowboy approach. Yeeee-hawhawhaw. By the way, I believe this is the same Larry Mahan who had a longtime gig as a member of the Fall Rivers Wranglers, a "chuckwagon gang" at a dude-ranch in Colorado -- he was in the group for the first half of the 1970s, and returned for at least one album around 1980.
Don Mahoney & Jeanna Clare "America From Deep In The Heart Of Texas" (Astro Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Charron)
This album features middle-aged couple singing western oldies, stuff like "Home On The Range," "Indian Love Call" and "There's An Empty Cot in The Bunkhouse," along with some country oldies and patriotic tunes.
Main Street Opry "Lake Of The Ozarks: We Make Memories" (197-?) (LP)
A souvenir album from the Main Street Music Hall, one of the numerous country-themed shows in the Branson, Missouri area... Not sure who was on this album, or when it came out, though it's definitely a '70s kinda album.
Main Street Opry "Lake Of The Ozarks: The Tradition Continues" (History Records, 198-?) (LP)
The Maines Brothers - see artist discography
Bonnie Makepeace "I'm A Song In The Wind" (19--?) (LP)
I could find very little information about this 12-string strummin' gal or about this album, which I believe was her only record. She was originally from Canadaigua, New York, and played there from the mid-1970s to at least the mid-'80s, playing at rodeos and county fairs, as well as venues such as the Lakeview Inn and the California Ranch nightclub. She sang traditional folk and country songs, but was also a prolific songwriter, copyrighting over a hundred songs during her career. She may have moved to Wyoming by the time this record was made, though, again, it's hard to pin down much information about the album itself.
Don Malena "City Boy (197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Malena & Scott Seely)
A little bit of a mystery disc here... Singer Don Malena grew up around Bakersfield, California and played in country bands at local dives, most notably with the Bill Woods Band at a joint called the Blackboard Club. Somewhere along the way he tapped into the LA-based Accent label, which moved from pop and easy-listening into a more country-oriented repertoire sometime in the late 'Sixties. Malena released a string of singles on Accent, capped off by this album, which has an early 'Seventies look. (A version of John Rostill's "Let Me Be There" places it at least from 1973, and judging from Malena's "look" on the cover I'd guess this is from 1973-74, or thereabouts.) Anyway, no hits here, among the cover songs and multiple Don Malena compositions, although he did crack the charts over a decade later, with a trio of (very) poppy, very Back Forty country singles on Comstock Records, circa 1986-88. Despite his bland pop leanings later in life, Malena did show real country roots in his earlier work, including some tracks where he gives a pretty decent impersonation of Merle Haggard.
Ray Malus "Country Banquet" (Moebius Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Les Gardner)
A New York City native, singer Ray Malus headed out West and did nightclub gigs in LA for several years, with a set list that included a fair amount of country stuff. This album, which features Malus on keyboards and producer Les Gardner on pedal steel, includes a couple of Kris Kristofferson covers, along with '70s hits like "Margaritaville," "Games People Play," and the Jim Reeves oldie "He'll Have To Go."
Ray Malus "Requestfully Yours" (Moebius Records, 19--?) (LP)
Ray Malus "Portrait" (Moebius Records, 19--?) (LP)
Includes his original song, "Hello God (This Is America Calling)," as well as covers of "Hava Nagila" and "Me And Bobby McGee."
Manassas "Manassas" (Atlantic Records, 1972)
(Produced by Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman & Dallas Taylor)
Although it's rightfully given a place in the history of country-rock, the first album by the Stephen Stills/Chris Hillman-led Manassas kicks off with a strong blues/boogie rock sound, drifting into cosmic rock on songs like "How Far," "Both Of Us" and "Move Around" then briefly -- and a little abruptly -- into country songs such as "Colorado," "Fallen Eagle" and "Jesus Gave Love Away For Free." Stills is clearly the guiding force here, bringing into clearer focus the subtle Latino-Caribbean soft-rock groove that would define many of the later CSN hits of the decade... The country stuff features some swell pedal steel by Al Perkins and fairly salty fiddle as well (courtesy of Byron Berline, I believe...) This double LP offers only a handful of true twang tunes for country fans, but they work well in a country-rock mix, and as a classic dino-rock hippie album, this holds up pretty well. Definitely one of Stephen Stills' finest moments.
Manassas "Down The Road" (Atlantic Records, 1973)
(Produced by Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman & Dallas Taylor)
This disc was more groove-oriented, and perhaps a bit more druggy and sluggish as well, with Stills sliding into lethargic blues-funk riffs and, more interesting, returning to the groovy Latin-rock of earlier albums. (On "Pensamiento," Al Perkins adds some cool pedal steel licks to the solid salsa arrangement, an experimental touch and a lively track that are highlights of a fairly mundane album. For twangfans, there are a couple of country numbers, the spacey "So Many Times" and the aggressively philosophical "Do You Remember The Americans," an uptempo, bluegrassy number reminiscent of the late '60s Byrds. Not the greatest record ever (the rock-funk stuff is kind of morose and depressing) but there are a few tracks worth checking out. After this, the band broke up -- Chris Hillman had Stills had bigger fish to fry and may have realized that the harmonies with Crosby and Nash were simply better than anything else he was likely to put together with other rockers at the time.
Manassas "Pieces" (Rhino Records, 2009)
(Produced by Howard Albert, Ron Albert & Stephen Stills)
I suppose, technically, this band -- which featured ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and Crosby Stills & Nash-er Stephen Stills -- counts as a "country rock" forerunner but perhaps it fits more comfortably in a folk-rock/classic rock bracket, of a piece with Stephen Stills' other solo work and his CSN/CSNY years. This album gathers outtakes and alternate versions from the band's brief, 1971-73 lifespan. To be sure, there are some twangy tunes, notably the pedal steel-drenched demo of "Like A Fox" (with Bonnie Raitt singing in the backup chorus!) and covers of "Panhandle Rag," Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and the Joe Maphis classic, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Loud, Loud Music," as well as some funky rock riffs and a bit of Stills' Latin American flair as well. If you're a Stills/hippie soul fan, you'll want to check this one out.
Irlene Mandrell "Texersize" (Panda Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Andy Murphy)
Geez, really? A Lone Star line-dancing aerobics album? Well, sure, why not? What the heck. And, yes, Irlene Mandrell is actually the younger sister of Barbara and Louise... She appears appropriately svelte on the front cover of this album, while the gatefold obligingly wraps around to display her pert heinie and well-toned gams on the back, as well as a pair of rad-looking red cowgal boots, complete with high heels and decorative spurs. (Lesson Three on Side Two tells you how to work out while wearing them...) And while you may laugh, this album is packed with top Texas talent, including steel player Jimmy Day, fiddler Danny Levin, Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson (doing some square dance calls!) and even indie twangster Kimmie Rhodes, singing in the chorus. So bust out your chaps, and feel the burn! Yee-haw!!
Happy Mann & The Country Squires "Fairways Lounge Presents..." (Mark Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Vern Batt)
Pure lounge-band country by a band from Buffalo, New York... Bandleader Happy Mann had a regionally successful band from the late 1950s through the '60s and beyond. I'm guessing this album -- which features backing by a bunch of younger guys -- came out around 1970, since it includes covers of "Statue Of A Fool" and "Proud Mary" which both were hits in 1969. There's one Mann original on here, the novelty-oriented "Coupon Song," though mostly this was a honkytonk/country ballads oriented set. Mann also cut some square dance singles, though this album's a real-deal country record.
Toney Mann "Just Plain Country" (Artemiss Records, 197-??) (LP)
A super-indie album from a middle-aged guy from Idaho... This looks like all original material, including novelty numbers such as "Save This Fool A Stool," "Stool 24," and "Pappy's Puppy Love," along with regional pride tunes like "Elk City" and "Beautiful Idaho." This one's a real mystery, though, with no liner notes on the back, and no information about the musicians, etc. Toney A. Mann (1923-2005) was something of a roustabout -- born in Missouri, he headed west in the late '50s, did construction work in California before moving all through the high plains states, working various jobs while making a go of it as a musician. In the late '70s he settled down in Rapid City, SD married, and then moved again to Montana and then to Marmarth, North Dakota, which he called home for the rest of his life. I'm not sure where he was living when he cut this album (though Idaho seems a good bet, considering the two songs) Also not sure when, exactly, it was made -- I'm guessing the early 1970s, though more concrete information is always welcome.
Jim Manning "...Sings For Charity" (Ripcord Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Ray Eldred)
One of the few Ripcord records that we've got a firm release date for -- an April, 1976 show notice in a local paper mentioned its recent release -- this is also a slightly mellower, more folk-oriented album. Washington native Jim Manning wrote three of the songs on this disc, including "Just One More Time," "Sweet Leander" and "For Charity," which was dedicated to his daughter. (He later wrote another song for his second girl, "Mandy.") The album also includes covers of '70s hits such as "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Mr. Bojangles," Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," Kris Kristofferson's "For The Good Times," and even Erroll Garner's "Misty."
Manuela "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart" (CMH, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Martin Haerle, John Wagner & Jack Linnemann)
I'm not sure what her last name was, but despite being a young'un, Manuela was certainly devoted to traditional, old-school country sounds of bygone years... To start with, there's her version of the title track, a cowgal classic by Patsy Montana, along with other oldies such as "Born To Lose," "If You've Got The Money (I've Got The Time)" and "I Forgot To Remember To Forget." This album was partly recorded in Nashville, and partly at John Wagner's studio in Albuquerque, but it certainly shows a devotion to a style of twang that came decades earlier... Not all western stuff, by any means, but a nice echo of the country styles of the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
Jody Maphis & Joe Maphis "Guitaration Gap" (Chart Records, 1971) (LP)
This all-instrumental outing was the first album to spotlight Jody Maphis, the teenage son of guitar whiz, Joe Maphis. Originally a West Coaster, Jody was influenced by the California country sound his dad pioneered, as well as the Bakersfield twang of Buck Owens and his compatriots, and he went on to be a prolific studio musician in the Nashville scene. As promised, this set of father-son duets bridges the "gap" between musical eras, with plenty of Joe's flashy old-school superpickin' matched by vigorous rock arrangements that represent the contemporary hippie/country-rock scene. They cover some hits, like James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" and John Fogarty's "Lookin' Out My Back Door," while also tipping their hats towards the Chart label's biggest star, Lynn Anderson, with covers of a couple of her early hits. Jody Maphis had already been playing guitar in Earl Scruggs' progressive country-grass band, and pays tribute to his boss in "Scruggin' It," one of several lively, dynamic originals -- also notable is the swingin' title track, where licks are swapped on pretty much every country instrument you can imagine. Fun stuff!
The Maple River Band "Go For It!" (Eagle Records, 1980)
(Produced by Lyndon Bartell, Steve Tryhus, Ralph Bailey & Larry Cooper)
This humble folk-country foursome from Good Thunder, Minnesota mostly recorded original songs with a few well-chosen covers, such as John Prine's "Whistle And Fish" and The Louvin Brothers' "If I Could Only Win Your Love." The group had mixed male-female vocals, with fiddler Patti Selsvold Tryhus indulging in some Emmylou-esque country crooning (with a slight Judy Collins folkie hangover) while the guys stick to a more old-timey/twangtune style... This album has a nice country feel, though it's a little under-produced: some of these original songs sound pretty thin, and might have had more impact with a richer mix, as it is the album, has an authentic feel though it doesn't really wow you. (It's possible, though, that the tracks sound better on the CD reissue... I only have the old LP...) Still, if you're looking for mellow, hippie DIY twang, this disc is certainly worth a spin.
Nancy Tabb Marcantel "Ma Louisiane" (Swallow Records, 197--?) (LP)
The first album by Nancy Tabb Marcantel, who has since become one of Louisiana's most prominent cajun-country singers. The set list is mainly of country and pop hits given a Acadian French update by lyricist James Domengeaux... Thus, Tony Orlando's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" becomes "Pends Un Ruban Jaune," and "For The Good Times" morphs into "Pour Les Bons Temps." Other adaptations include "Petit Oiseau" ("Snowbird"), "Avec Toi" ("Let Me Be There"), and "Ma Louisiane" ("Take Me Home Country Roads").
Nancy Tabb Marcantel "Lagniappe" (Swallow Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Greg Marcantel, Fred Soleil & Joe Avant, Jr.)
Louisiana cajun country, in the tradition of Bruce Vin -- mostly French-language stuff, but about a third of the songs are English-language songs, solidly in the mainstream country style. The album was recorded with local musicians and seems to have been a family affair, with Greg Marcantel producing and Peter Marcantel on guitar; bassist Benny Graeff also helped mix the record, with Gary Graeff on guitar. Greg and Peter Marcantel also wrote half the songs on here, and presumably had a hand in translating into French hits by Merle Haggard ("Today I Started Loving You Again" as "La Fin De L'Amour") and Kris Kristofferson ("Help Me Make It Through The Night" transposed into "Aide-Moi A Passer A Nuit") and Hank Cochran ("Enleve-Moi Ce Chagrin," or, "Make The World Go Away.") If you're looking for local, this little jaunt down on the bayou might be for you! All told, Ms. Marcantel has recorded at least ten albums, performing well into the 21st century... but we'll just stick to the '70s stuff for now.
The Marcy Brothers "Growin' Up Country" (Kam Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Sullivan & The Marcy Brothers)
A bluegrass-flavored family band from Oroville, California, north of Sacramento... The group included brothers Kendal Marcy (banjo and mandolin), Kevin Marcy (lead vocals and guitar) and Kris Marcy (lead guitar), as well as Rick Dugan on bass. Although they used some bluegrass instruments and covered 'grass tunes such as "Rocky Top," "Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor," and Jim & Jesse's "Are You Teasing Me," most of their material is distinctly country-oriented, including outlaw anthems such as "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and country oldies like "Diesel On My Tail" and "Oh, Lonesome Me." This album was totally private-press DIY, but after plugging away for several years, the Marcy Brothers managed to score a major-label contract, and recorded two mainstream Top Forty country albums. They released a handful of singles which charted mostly in the 'back forty, and on their second album in 1991 they recorded the first version of Don Von Tress's "Achy Breaky Heart," which of course became a huge, global hit for Billy Ray Cyrus later that same year. Not sure about the other brothers, but multi-instrumentalist Kendal Marcy stuck it out in show business, and landed a gig playing in Brad Paisley's band.
Margaret & The Country Kids "Margaret And The Country Kids" (Artco Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Hartman)
A family band led by Margaret Stewart, a rancher from Cottonwood Falls, Kansas who also was a well-known square dance caller in the Oklahoma-Kansas region. She sings and plays mandolin, with a cast of dozens both backing her up and sharing the spotlight. The album includes songs written by her daughter, Judith Roper ("Granny's Teenage Queen," "It Started From A Dream," "John's Old Sal") and producer Tom Hartman ("Gingerbread Man," "Good Old Country Music," "Down Home"). The group performed at local rodeos and other events, and this album, which was recorded at Associated Recording Artists studio in Oklahoma City, and was written up in Billboard magazine, as part of an overview of the Oklahoma country scene of 1973.
Stuart Margolin "And The Angel Sings" (Warner Brothers Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Riopelle & Murray MacLeod)
A mostly-country(ish) vanity album by actor Stuart Margolin, who is probably best known for his role as James Garner's sidekick, Angel Martin, on The Rockford Files TV show. Despite what you might think, Margolin was not a complete musical neophyte, and actually had a pretty successful streak as a pop songwriter in the 'Sixties and early 'Seventies. He wrote a bunch of stuff with rocker Jerry Riopelle, including Riopelle's outlaw country classic, "Red Ball Texas Flyer," which is included here in a rather frenetic rendition, along with about ten other tunes the pair co-composed. Despite Margolin's musical bona fides, I have to say this album feels like a missed opportunity... It starts out on a strong note, with Margolin whimsically crooning a lighthearted medley of "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Too Much Monkey Business," dancing around the melodies with a confidence borne out of his acting chops. It's also clear from the get-go that Margolin had a pretty good voice and could really carry a song if he wanted to... But the cheerfulness and bonhomie of this performance intensifies over the course of the album, displacing the potential for more serious musicmaking. This swiftly establishes itself as a party album, and in no small part feels like one of those parties you hear about, but aren't part of yourself. Oh, sure, it's lively and well-produced, and packed with great musicians, notably true-blue Texans such as Johnny Gimble, Eldon Shamblin and Marc Jaco, as well as steel player Herb Remington, fiddler Byron Berline, pop star Jim Messina and of course Jerry Riopelle and various and sundry members of his LA posse... But the flippant, let's-have-a-party vibe becomes distracting, and you quickly find yourself wishing, with all the groovy songs they'd written together, that Margolin and Riopelle might have taken themselves more seriously on a tune or two. This album legitimately fits into the waning years of the outlaw country scene, but it could have been a much stronger offering.
Mark And Dale "Second Generation Nashville" (Flying High Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Slim Richey & Mark Jones)
That would be Mark Jones and Dale Maphis (1957-1989), the respective sons of country legends Joe Maphis and Grandpa Jones, lookin' pretty darn longhaired and hippied-out. It's a cool record: they each clearly inherited a lot of their dad's talent and personal style, so Jones plays a pretty chunky banjo style and Maphis sure can pick. A bunch of family members are also on this disc, including their moms and dads, as well as a sibling or two, and guest performers that include Steve Scruggs swapping banjo licks on "John Hardy," Marty Stuart playing a lot of lead guitar and singing lead on a version of "Hey Jude" and Ronald White picking mandolin on a version of "Reuben." And of course there are a bunch of Nashville studio pro usual suspects such as Ray Edenton, Gene Wooton and Roy Huskey filling out the sound... A nice, smooth blend of old-timey and old-school country, with just a smidge of new-fangled "progressive" ideas in a few arrangements... Mostly this is down-to-earth, easygoing and quite cheerful... Nothing earthshaking or mindblowing, but a nice, laidback jam session among family and friends. Sadly, Dale Maphis died young at age 31 in a driving accident, after working for several years in bands at the Opryland theme park.
Ben Marney & Homecookin' "Life's A Whole Lot Easier" (Southern Biscuit Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Wolf Stephenson & Ben Marney)
A locals-only project from Jackson, Mississippi, with lots of original material and local pickers. Marney also recorded a few singles for Summit and Playboy Records, though I think this LP was his big one. It's pretty good, overall, thumpy, Waylon-esque, Moe Bandy-ish stuff with some decent novelty numbers and kinda sloppy but ambitious production. Marney covers several outlaw classics, stuff like "Desperado," "Texas When I Die" and Kris Kristofferson's "If You Don't Like Hank Williams," as well as his own "Cowgirls," "Disco Go To Hell," "Jack Daniels" and "Rich And Good Lookin," which is an album highlight. Side One ends with an odd entry, "Outlaws," in which he declares his opposition to the outlaw scene, insisting that his music is just as good as them there outlaw singers, and he doesn't drink or do drugs (though all those beer bottles on the front cover tell a different story...) Anyway, this is a noteworthy album from the era -- the only really bad part are the three tracks showcasing "gal" singer Pat Vivier, particularly "I'm Going Home," a bombastically pretentious, overblown poetical number which is really painful to listen to... On Side Two, Marney's "Circle," a song about his grandmother dying, is also pretty goopy and overdone, but the simpler, twangier stuff that surrounds these tracks mostly makes up for it.
Ben Marney "Wine, Women And Song" (Southern Biscuit Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Dino Zimmerman)
Ben Marney & Homecookin' "Old Outlaws" (Marney Media Group, 2015) (LP)
Marshall Tucker Band "Greatest Hits" (Shout Factory, 2011)
I gotta confess, as a true child of the 'Seventies, even I am surprised at how strong a hold South Carolina's finest, the Marshall Tucker Band, still have on me. One of the most commercially successful Southern Rock acts, these guys softened their sound enough to crack the formula to get into the Pop charts, and tunes such as "Fire On The Mountain" and "Can't You See" remain as effective now as they were when they first came out. There's a bunch of stuff they did on the more rock/boogie/groove end of the spectrum that doesn't really do much for me, but I do like their twang tunes, even after all these years. I also like some of their lesser singles and album tracks such as the Jerry Jeff Walker-ish "Desert Skies" and "This Ol' Cowboy," which I remember hearing on the radio, but didn't realize were from MTB... This is a nice sampler of their work, a dozen-plus tracks concentrating on their best years, and a good introduction to one of the best pop-twang bands of the era.
Marshall Tucker Band "Anthology: The First 30 Years" (Shout Factory, 2005)
Linda Martell "Color Me Country" (Plantation Records, 1970) (LP)
Oh, the indignities. That one of the first female African-American country stars should have such a humiliatingly obvious album title... And that it came out on the Plantation label, no less. Anyway, with a background singing gospel and soul with her family band in South Carolina, Linda Martell is said to have been the first African-American woman to play the Grand Ole Opry... She made a few appearances on Hee Haw in the early '70s, as well... Many years before her country career, she recorded an R&B single with a group called the Anglos... and this album is her legacy as a country gal.
Marty Martel & His Midnight Special Band "On The Road" (Ridgetop Records, 1979-?) (LP)
Marty Martel & His Midnight Special Band "If This Is Love" (Ridgetop Records, 19--?) (LP)
Marty Martel "Don't Ever Stop Lovin' Me" (Artists Records, 1984-?) (LP)
Martin & Finley "Dazzle 'Em With Footwork" (Motown, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Gaudio)
I'm adding this as a buyer-beware public service, not as a recommendation. It can be hard to tell just looking at the covers with a lot of early '70s albums just how "country" they might be... I had to check this one out because I noticed Lowell George, Carl Jackson and J.D. Maness listed in the studio crew, but as it turns out, I only should have paid attention to one name, producer Bob Gaudio, best known for his work as the keyboardist for the Four Seasons. This is an overblown, top-heavy, self-indulgent and entirely uncompelling '70s pop outing -- yes, there's some banjo and a little slide guitar in there somewhere, but unless you're on the prowl for bad '70s SoCal kitsch, there's really no reason to check this one out.
Asa Martin & The Cumberland Rangers "Dr. Ginger Blue: Timely Old Tunes" (Rounder Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Guthrie T. Meade & Mark Wilson)
An old-timey singer from Irving, Kentucky, Asa F. Martin (1900-1979) hosted his own radio program for many years during the Great Depression and recorded numerous influential 78s, though he had been retired from the music business for many years before the folkie-bluegrass crown caught up to him. This album features newer recordings made in the early 'Seventies, with backing by a multi-talented trio -- Earl Barnes, Grady Brazeale and Jim Gaskin -- who trade off on various instruments. Some of these songs will be familiar to country and bluegrass fans, particularly "More Pretty Girls Than One," though for the most part this digs pretty deep into some pretty obscure mountain music.
Bob Martin "Midwest Farm Disaster" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
An early classic of the folkie country-poet genre now known as "Americana." Bob Martin was a singer-songwriter from Lowell, Massachusetts who trekked down to Nashville to record his first album, working with the A-list studio pros in the Area Code 615/Barefoot Jerry network, cats like David Briggs, Norbert Putnam and Kenny Buttrey... The results were pretty laid-back, sort of an acoustic saloon-blues cabaret, easily framing Martin's nasal, pinched vocals and providing unobtrusive backing for his rambling, discursive lyrics. There's the same sort of slice-of-life storytelling style later associated with Guy Clark and Nanci Griffith -- nice stuff, although the highly-regarded album didn't sell well, and Martin retreated from the music business a couple of years later. He recorded only sparingly after that, averaging one album per decade, up until the year 2000. This delicate, skillful album is considered his masterpiece, although his later stuff is rewarding as well.
Bob Martin "Last Chance Rider" (June Appal Recordings, 1982)
The Martin Brothers "Songs That Made Bros. Famous" (Erin Recordings, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Rudy Callicutt)
A tribute to the "brother harmony" sound of the Everly Brothers and the Louvins, with classic songs performed by Jay W. Martin and his brother Joey, a duo from Fairfax, Virginia, backed by their band the Starlighters. Not a lot of info about these guys, though according to the liner notes they had been playing with the Starlighters at local venues for about eight years before cutting this disc. This looks hella cool, but unfortunately the copy I saw at my local Record Hut was completely thrashed, so I had to pass on it. The Martin Brothers apparently recorded at least one single as well, with two tracks included on the VIRGINIA ROCK A BILLY AND COUNTRY compilation album released by White Label Records, in Holland.
Buzz Martin "Where There Walks A Logger, There Walks A Man" (Ripcord Records, 1968) (LP)
Buzz Martin "A Logger's Reward" (Ripcord Records, 1969) (LP).
(Produced by Bob Gibson & Rick Keefer)
Buzz Martin "A Logger Finds An Opening" (Ripcord Records, 1970) (LP)
Buzz Martin "The Old Time Logger: A Vanishing Breed Of Man" (Ripcord Records, 1971) (LP)
Buzz Martin "The Singing Logger" (Ranwood Records, 1974) (LP)
Buzz Martin "Solid Gold" (Ripcord Records, 1975) (LP)
Buzz Martin "...And The Chips Off The Old Block" (Ripcord Records, 1976) (LP)
Candy Martin "Meet Candy Martin: The Man With A Thousand Voices" (Ripcord Records/Vanco Records, 1976) (LP)
Hailing from from Vancouver, Washington, singer Candy Martin specialized in celebrity imitations... This album had one side of original songs, while the other is a medley of imitations of various country stars -- Webb Pierce, Roy Acuff, et. al. Apparently he made an appearance on Hee Haw sometime before this album came out...
Dean Martin "The Nashville Sessions" (Warner Brothers, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen & Don Lanier)
Ernest C. Martin "Highway To Heaven, Album No. 1" (A Martin Blue Grass Special, 1962-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ernest C. Martin)
Born in Clay City, Kentucky, Ernest C. Martin (1914-2002) started his career as a secular, old-timey singer, including a stint on WNOX, Knoxville, becoming a regional performer, popular in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. But his first fling at show biz rattled him -- Martin drank heavily and fell into hard times and bad health, as he candidly discussed in later years. When he was just twenty-two years old, Martin devoted himself to a lifelong calling as a Baptist evangelical and recorded primarily gospel music for the next several decades. Mr. Martin, along with his sons Ernie Martin and Vernon Martin, recorded a long string of singles and albums, spanning vinyl, 78s, and 8-track tapes, from the late 1940s to the '80s. He also recorded a number of his radio shows, tapes of which were donated to the Berea College archives. This album, Highway To Heaven, was his first LP, recorded with The Norvel Brothers of Dayton Ohio -- Bob and Ray -- playing bass and "straight guitar," fellow Kentuckian Oral C. Robbins on lead guitar, and Mr. Martin playing banjo. This same configuration also released several singles on the Martin label. This appears to be the first album that his oldest son, Ernest Junior, played on, playing lead guitar on a couple of tracks. The songs appeared on earlier singles (with some dating back to the '40s) though it's not clear how many of the album tracks were re-recordings, or reissues of the originals.
Ernest C. Martin "Road Of No Return" (Martin Records, 1966-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ernest C. Martin)
Ernest C. Martin "That Last Inauguration" (Pine Tree Records, 19--?) (LP)
This album features extensive biographical notes by Ozzie Thorpe, detailing Martin's early years as "Kid Martin," playing on radio and doing frantic one-night stands alongside hillbilly stars including Bill and Cliff Carlisle, until he burned out, got religion, and became an ordained minister. In 1948, Martin cut his first gospel disc, the first of three 78rpm singles for the fabled Rich-R-Tone label. A few years later, in 1955, he started his own label and self-released a string of discs. This one features backing by Bob Atkins on drums, Chet Barnett (bass), Ken Bussell (fiddle), J. D. Jarvis (dobro and guitar), Ralph King (banjo), and Ernest Martin on rhythm guitar. Seven of the songs are Ernest Martin originals, including the title track, while others are credited as traditional or public domain.
Ernest C. Martin "What Have You Gained" (Jewel Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York & Reggie Wallace)
In addition to his sons on guitar and bass, this early 'Seventies edition of Martin's band included Dallas Alexander on guitar, Darrel Alexander (drums), and Bruce Andrews (banjo). On the back cover liner notes, Martin discusses his early binge drinking, which he says led to alcohol poisoning on several occasions, as well as to his evangelical calling. Martin had moved to Winchester, Kentucky by the time of this session, and lived there for the rest of his life.
Ernest C. Martin "Too Far Upon My Journey" (Jewel Records, 1973-?) (LP)
Ernest C. Martin "Keep On The Sunny Side" (Jewel Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York)
According to the liner notes, this was the sixth album of gospel twang by singer and banjoist Ernest C. Martin, at the time living in Burnside, Kentucky. As per usual, he's backed by his sons, Ernie and Vernon. The repertoire is a mix of Carter Family classics, other old-timey tunes, and few Ernest Martin originals... Rusty York wrote the liner notes.
Ernest C. Martin "Great Day In The Morning" (Jewel Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen & Don Lanier)
Ernest C. Martin "Hillbilly Gospel From The Bluegrass Hills" (BACM, 2006) (CD-R)
This digital collection gathers a bunch of Martin's earlier recordings, including a slew of tracks with O. C. Robbins and the Norvells. Anyone got a copy?
Jim Martin "Renegade" (Sunbelt, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Lawrence & Jim Martin)
A 6-song EP from this Texas artist...
Johnny Martin "Lay Back Easy Feeling" (History Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Martin & Brad Edwards)
I try not to make a habit of making fun of records and artists just for sheer badness, but I have to say, despite the promising album art of the bearded, grinning Mr. Martin reclining in a field of flowers tilting his cowboy hat at a rakish angle, this is a pretty astonishingly bad record. There is some twang, but not enough, and while a couple of tracks make it to near-classic novelty status (like "Stand In Line" and the super-clunky civil-rights-for-Native-Americans song, "Leather Boots And Moccasins") many are just plain awful, and Martin emerges as a vanity-label artist who maybe just didn't know when to quit. Although I don't approve of such things, this is an album best appreciated by folks who get their kicks bathing in the ironies of faux-loving bad records, with Martin appearing as sort of a country music Mrs. Miller. Recorded at the AudioLoft Studios in Macks Creek, Missouri, this is one of several albums on the History label -- anyone know more about this outfit? I think there may have been some connection to nearby Branson, though I'm not totally sure. No release date, either, but I'm guessing around 1976-78.
Johnny Martin "Talk About Lonesome" (Marlew Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Lewis)
Marty Martin "...Sings Country Music And Stuff Like That" (American Heritage Music Corporation, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Cederstrom)
Lecil T. ("Marty") Martin (1931-1999) was a country music DJ on radio station KGEM, in Boise, Idaho... He did on-air comedy bits and his sense of humor is reflected in this album, which includes lots of original(?) material, such as "I Hope Your World Don't End," "River Thru Reno," "Was It All In Fun," and "The Speed Limit's Thirty." Oh, and he also recorded a song called "Boxcar Willie," which is the name he switched to for his musical career, which took off in the 1970s and culminated in a long-running TV mailorder campaign and a permanent residency Branson, Missouri. This was his first album, recorded in the early 'Seventies, when he was living in Idaho... He's backed by some local talent, including Glen Smith (steel guitar) Jerry Jackson (bass) and Curt Doolin (lead guitar) and Alice Krahn and Robert Strong on drums. The birth of a legend!
Marv Martin "Leavin' Is The Easy Thing To Do" (Fox Fire Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Powell & Harold Shedd)
A country singer from Battle Creek Michigan, Marvin Lawrence Martin recorded a number of singles and at least one album (although I don't think he was the same Marv Marvin who recorded for the gospel label, Rainbow Records...) He did some sessions in Nashville, but never cracked into the charts and remained a regional artist... He also had a fairly tragic life, spending years in recovery as a result of severe burns sustained when he was young, and passed away in 1982 as a result of cancer. It's possible that this was his only full album -- it's well produced though workmanlike, with an anonymous Nashville studio crew assembled by veteran producer Harold Shedd, backing Martin's rugged, plainspoken vocals, and some of the songs might grow on you... Anyone out there have more information about this fella?
Michael J. Martin "Windmill" (MJM/Windmill Productions, 1980)
(Produced by Michael J. Martin, John Wilson & Phil York)
Rough-and-tumble Texas music from Vietnam veteran Michael J. Martin, who was mostly tackling regular old country music themes here, about girls and trucks, but who later recorded a number of albums dealing with war, military service, and the Vietnam War in particular. But if you just wanna pop the top on a cold one and hear a little twang, this would be the album for you. Includes numbers such as "Don't Dance With Darlene," "Inside Out Blues" and "Texas Truck Stop Cafe," all Michael J. Martin originals. Part of the album was recorded live at a joint in Dallas called Up Your Alley; the band on both the live and studio sessions included Gator Bailey on bass, Sleepy John Barker (steel guitar), D. C. Duncan (drums), Mark Easterling (lead guitar), Ron Mason (piano) and David Patton singing harmony.
Mike Martin & Pam Martin "Fernwood Pacific" (Augustus Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Ibbotson, Mike Crumm, Mike Martin & Pam Martin)
An enchanting and remarkably diverse album by a duo from Vail, Colorado. The Martins performed often as a duo but went whole hog on this album, with help from producer Jimmy Ibbotson, a sporadic member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who organized this session in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado. The range of styles is sweeping and often a bit hard to pin down, certainly country or country-rock, but also '70s AOR and indefinable swirly, folkadelic stuff with wild, ambitious arrangements. To my ears, Pam Martin was the star of the show, with ringing, confident vocals that evoke Linda Ronstadt, among others -- she's penetrating, at times majestic. Mike Martin had a strong presence as well, but I guess I'm not just as attuned to the tremulous male folk-freak style. There's a wealth of original material on this album, including several songs that sound like the should be covers, notably "Hey Colorado" and the Ian & Sylvia-esque "For The Love That You Bring," and though it seems a little too on the nose lyrically, the lounge singer saga "Lonely Entertainer" has a funny way of sticking in your head. My attention was caught by an unlikely cover tune, their choppy western swing rendition of "The King Takes The Queen," a timely inclusion since the song was first recorded by California's Larry Hosford on his first album, that same year. The backing band is quite good, with a special shout-out to steel player Eddie Steves, who helps unlock the album's amorphous vibe. (There was a long thread about this album on the Waxidermy blog back in 2011, with Pam Martin chiming in to tell folks that she and Mike had long since split up, though they had both resettled in Arizona. A few years later, the song "Lonely Entertainer" appeared on Numero Records' excellent collection, Wayfaring Strangers.
Paul Martin "Great Country Gold" (Plantation Records, 1978) (LP)
Sammy Martin "Mr. Dynamite: Live At The Longbranch Saloon Roadway Inn, Nashville Tennessee" (LP)
Sandy Martin "Does Lovin' Come That Easy?" (198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Sandy Martin & Myron Smith)
Mostly covers, but one original (the title track) from a gal singer who seems to have been part of Denny Hilton's Country Shindig show, one of Missouri's many mom'n'pop Ozark "opry" venues... Martin penned the title track, and also sings country hits such as "Blanket On The Ground," "Break My Mind," "Don't Touch Me," "Satin Sheets," and of course, yet another version of "Rocky Top." She's backed by several musicians associated with Country Shindig's early/mid-1980s lineup, including David Nace on drums, Jimmy Nace (bass), James Pennebaker (fiddle), Myron Smith (steel guitar), Stanley Stidham (lead guitar), Sarah West (piano), and Steve West playing banjo. I couldn't find a release date for this album, but based on her fabulous perm and the overall look of the record, I'd guess somewhere around 1983-84, maybe later.
Sonny Martin "Live In Nashville, Tenn." (DeVille Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Price)
I'm not sure if this is the same Sonny Martin as below... Certainly this album is from much earlier. This guy was born George Edward Throckmorton, Jr. and was a protege of country star Red Foley, performing regularly on the Ozark Jubilee. This is an album of country covers, with tunes by Dave Dudley, Merle Haggard and others...
Sonny Martin "Live In Concert" (K.S.E. Records, 1984)
(Produced by Robert Price)
A California-based singer, hailing from the Santa Ana/Irvine area. The repertoire is mostly cover songs, with two songs credited to G. Gentry that I think are originals: "Let Me Go To Helen When I Die" and "Mail Me Home To Georgia."
Marty "Introducing Marty" (Choice Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
Another obscuro offering from the Pacific Northwest, recorded at the Ripcord studios. I think this guy's name was actually Thomas A. Martin: there's one song on here credited to that name, "What You Alone Gave Me," a song he had previously recorded as a single in 1973, along with "Since I Bought My Guitar." This version is a re-recording, but it's still the standout among the usual set of bar-band cover songs, stuff by Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, et. al. Marty's backing band, the Drifting Shadows, were from Spanaway, Washington, a tiny town near Tacoma, though Mr. Martin was originally from Charlotte, South Carolina... The Drifting Shadows were apparently really guitarist Hank Little's band, but they backed Martin for this album, with Martin's wife, Bettye, providing backup vocals. For his second record he had a different band, also packed with locals from the Tacoma, Washington twang scene.
Marty & The Drifting Shadows "Smooth Country" (Choice Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Maurice Killenbeck)
Another mystery disc, which was recorded at All-World Productions, in Tacoma, Washington... On his second album, Martin sticks mostly to cover songs, with one original from his old drummer Dave Estes ("Easy Does It") and a slew of oldies and '70s hits, stuff by Bob Wills, Jimmie Davis, Charlie Rich, Kris Kristofferson and others, stuff like "Behind Closed Doors," "One Day At A Time," and "Help Me Make It Throught The Night," along with oldies and pop standards such as "You Are My Sunshine," "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy" and "Cab Driver." Brand new band, too, with lead guitar by Doyle Woodard and Tacoma legend Ray "Shotgun Red" Hildreth on pedal steel... Marty is pictured on the back, and looks middle-aged, maybe about forty years old, and I'm guessing he didn't have a band or perform live. This album was dedicated to his father, who passed away in August, 1976, and the liner notes were addressed to his mother -- I think he basically made the record for her.
Marty & Carla "It's Gonna Be Sunny In Nashville" (Nevell Music, 19--?) (LP)
Minnesota-born keyboardist Carla Elliott and singer-comedian Marty Nevers formed a musical duo in 1969, and performed together for over forty years (with Nevers passing away in 2012). I don't think all their stuff was country, but this album definitely had a twangy twist to it, as seen by the cowboy hats on the cover, and songs such as "Rodeo Cowboy," "Country Boy" and the title track. They were married and lived in Minnesota, but would spend half each year in Mesa, Arizona, performing in the Southwest as well.
Bob Marty/Dakota Outlaws "Southern Comfort" (19--?) (LP)
Singer Bob Marty couldn't quite decide who should be listed as the artist on this one... Should it be under his own name, or under the "band" name Dakota Outlaws? (The distinction being that's what he called the act when he was performing with his wife, Dee, who also plays bass...) As it turned out, he has it both ways, with "Dakota Outlaws" emblazoned on the front cover, and "Bob Marty" persisting on the back and inner label. According to the liner notes, Missouri-born Mr. Marty worked as a traveling performer doing the "supper club trail" in the upper plains states, where he met Dee, who was a native North Dakotan. They settled down in Minot, ND and played together as a duo, cutting this album at some point in the late '70s. The repertoire is all cover songs, tilting heavily towards the contemporary 'Seventies "outlaw" sound -- songs like "Whiskey River," "Put Another Log On The Fire," "I Don't Think Hank Done It This Way" and "I Can Get Off On You." Your basic Waylon & Willie stuff...
Mason Bricke "...With Peter Masi and Donna Brickie" (Cactus Records, 1976) (LP)
This Arizona band takes its name from a composite of songwriter Peter Masi and singer Donna Bricke, who are joined by pedal steel player Gary Morse... This album is kind of all over the map, a mix of hippie country, starry-eyed folk and iffy acoustic blues. Donna Brickie had a very Judy Collins-y folkie vocal style, which doesn't do much for me, particularly on songs such as her cover of Graham Nash's "Wounded Bird." From a country-lover's perspective, probably the best track on here is the album's opener, "Janie," which has some really groovy pedal steel work, but mostly this is a bit too much in folkie territory for me.
Cliff Mason "Memories" (Barcliff Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Bernie Evans, Bill Hudak & Jim Gurley)
Mason Dixon "Homegrown" (Premier Records, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Mitchell)
The Texas trio of Jerry Dengler, Frank Gilligan & Rick Henderson flipped the script on the increasingly corporatized world of 1980s Top Country, cracking into the Top 40 with a single off this indie album... They remained a presence on the charts throughout the decade, but even when they were signed to a major label, they ultimately failed to click on the national level...
Mason-Dixon Line "Number Hana" (1983) (LP)
Can't tell you much about these fellas, though it looks like they were having fun when they made this record. Plenty of romping, singalong cover songs -- versions of "Louisiana Saturday Night," "Redneck Mother," "Sweet Home Alabama," "On The Road Again," and the like.
Garrett Rebel Mason "The Best Of Garrett Rebel Mason" (Winchester Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Kenneth Alexander)
Pretty darn good! A Kentucky lad who served in the Korean War, Garrett Thomas Mason (1930-2003) seems to have moved around a lot in his career. According to the liner notes, he started out singing on the radio in Toledo, Ohio way back in 1949, and following his military service he worked at station WAYZ, in Waynesboro, Virginia. His first record was a 1958 single that featured his own song, "Waiting For My Baby To Come Home," which is also included here. By the time he cut this disc, Mason had settled down in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and has a local band behind him, The Starlite Playboys, including Junior Black, Harvey Frey and Richard Ott, as well as gal singer Bonnie Lou Sillik, who adds some distinctly hillbilly-sounding vocals on several tracks. Mason sounds an awful lot like Ernest Tubb (only way less lethargic) and delivers solid hard-country performances backed by strong, competent twang, particularly the piercing pedal steel showcased on track after track. The album is full of original material, tunes from several composers all published by Little Jim Music/Jim McCoy Music, along with a light sprinkling of cover songs, such as Hank Locklin's "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On" and Jerry Chesnut's trucker tune, "Looking At The World Through A Windshield" (which helps date this LP to at least 1968 or later). I'm especially curious about the fiery Ms. Bonnie Lou, who is credited as composer on three songs, more than Mason himself. She started own band, the Majesties, around 1971, was still publishing songs in '72 and was singing at local events as late as 1975... but did she record elsewhere? Or was this it? Anyway, this record is solid Rust Belt twang... Maybe Rebel Mason wasn't the best at vocal phrasing, but he sure was country. Definitely worth a spin!
Mason Proffit - see artist discography
Von Mason "Just A Memory" (Phantom Chord, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Mitchell & Von Mason)
A. J. Masters "Back Home" (Bermuda Dunes Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Hinds, Billy Sanford)
A bicoastal cowboy, Arthur Jones Masaracchia (aka A. J. Masters, 1950-2015) was born in New York state but grew up in Southern California, eventually moving to Nashville, which became his home town... Best known as a songwriter, Masters had a slow roll-out of his career, penning some off-the-radar tunes in the 1970s, followed by a brief string of charting singles in the '80s, many of which are included on this album. In the 'Nineties, Masters joined Charlie Rich's touring band and finally found wider success as a mainstream songwriter around the turn of the century, with songs recorded by acts such as Frazier River, Jennifer Hanson and the Oak Ridge Boys. This disc is a pretty slick-sounding set -- as far as I know, it was his only album, although he released several singles after this came out.
Jan Mathews "This Little Texas Girl" (19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Kay Raper, J. L. Burgin, Jan Mathews & Mark Duvall)
An interesting album with a really long backstory... Jan Mathews was the daughter of Jay L. Burgin (1926-2011) and Sylvia Burgin (1927-2008) a fairly obscure country music duo from Denison, Texas who were fairly well known in the local music scene north of Dallas. They cut at least one single in the mid-1960s and gained national exposure when they nearly won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour TV talent show in 1968 (performing a novelty act with their dog Hortense, who yodeled...) Although Mr. Burgin was a working man, the couple managed to go on tour with several major Nashville artists, and were even booked on The Merv Griffin Show. The Burgins also put together a family band, with their daughter Jan playing steel guitar; her parents perform on this album (bass and vocals), and her sister, Aneita Kay Raper, was involved as well. Some of the songs were written by Mr. and Mrs. Burgin, including "I Wanna Sing Like They Do" and the title track, "This Little Texas Girl." Can't tell you much about Jan Mathews herself, though -- she plays keyboards on this disc instead of steel, and I believe she changed her name to Jan Pannell somewhere along the way. As far as I know, this was her only record.
"Country" Johnny Mathis - see artist discography
Matthew & The Mandarins "Four Seasons" (The Life Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Vincent Lim)
A strong, convincing set of pretty-pure twang by a band from Singapore, led by singer-guitarist Matthew Tan, backed here by Neal Alexander (lead guitar), Richard Danker (bass and piano) and Jeffrey Goh (drums). They cover a slew of late '60s/early '70s classics, including several Merle Haggard tunes ("It's Not Love, But It's Not Bad," "Okie From Muskogee," "Silver Wings," and "Swinging Doors") along with chestnuts such as "Folsom Prison Blues," "Louisiana Man" and "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy." Tan's vocals are pretty strong, with a credible American accent that never really slips, although on some songs -- notably Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord" and "Is Anybody Going To San Antone" -- his phrasing is a little flat and he doesn't quite connect with the lyrics. For the most part, though, this is a strong presentation, reflecting the band's considerable experience as a working group. They started out in 1961, working in nightclubs as a pop group before gravitating towards country music; they also backed other artists, notably singer Anita Sarawak on her 1969 debut album, With A Lot O' Soul. This album isn't super-dynamic or arresting, but it's a lot more solid than you might expect.
Matthew & The Mandarins "Matthew & The Mandarins" (EMI, 1978) (LP)
Moving to Nashville from 1975-77, Matthew Tan delved even deeper into American country, soaking up the then-current countrypolitan sound, which is reflected in this album's centerpiece, "Singapore Cowboy," an autobiographical novelty number that became a big regional hit in the late '70s. You gotta love the lyrical pun, "sing a poor cowboy another lonely song." Nice.
Matthew & The Mandarins "Matthew & The Mandarins II" (EMI, 1979) (LP)
Guerry Matthews "Guerry Matthews" (Tayma Records, 19--?) (LP)
Guerry Matthews "Phase Two - Closer" (19--?) (LP)
Vince Matthews & Jim Casey "The Kingston Springs Suite" (Delmore Recording Society, 1972/2015) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Bragg, Johnny Cash, Jack Clement, Kris Kristofferson & Shel Silverstein)
Truly a glorious mess... This was a dream project of singer Jim Casey and Nashville wildman Vince Matthews, a longhaired, hard-partying good old boy who floated into the orbit of Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson during the early 1970s, when this set was recorded. Kingston Springs Suite was intended as a song cycle or concept album -- at one point they thought of it as a Broadway musical -- and for a while was the stuff of legend in Nashville, what with all the heavy-hitters working behind the scenes. Casey and Matthews worked on the project for several years, making big plans and all kinds of connections, but eventually they had a falling out and went their separate ways. Matthews had some successes as a songwriter: two tunes from this album were picked up by their patrons, with Cash recording "Melva's Wine" and Waylon Jennings making "Laid Back Country Singer" an outlaw anthem... He also penned a couple of mid-'70s hits for Gene Watson and Crystal Gayle, though apparently substance abuse problems sidelined his career, and he dropped out of the music business, dying young at age sixty, in 2003. In the end, the Suite turned into a big pile of unreleased demos, which found the light of day forty years later after archivists tracked down Jim Casey and put out this LP. Like I say, it's really kind of a mess, impassioned but sloppy, though perhaps it would be more charitable to call it an unpolished gem -- there are certainly some groovy tunes, though what wound up as the "final" product on tape is kinda clunky. Not an album you'd put on for fun, but definitely an odd and intriguing footnote to an era when musical boundaries were breaking down and even Nashville was loosening up. If you're a devotee of classic outlaw country, you'll wanna check this one out.
Tokyo Matsu "The Country Lady From Japan" (Scorpion Records, 19--?) (LP)
Originally from Japan, Matsu Shockley (aka Tokyo Matsu) was a classically trained violinist who got hooked on country music, and first found an audience in the 1960s and early '70s performing for American servicemen in Europe and Asia, including USO tours in Vietnam. She emigrated to the United States and found work touring with various Nashville stars, as well as in regional "oprys" such as the Wheeling Jamboree. As with many fiddlers, one of her signature numbers is "Orange Blossom Special," where she showcases her improvisational skills and hot licks. Matsu eventually laid down roots in Nashville, with her husband George Shockley.
Tokyo Matsu "From Tokyo With Love" (Fifer Records, 1980) (LP)
Chuck Maultsby - see artist discography
Maverick "Maverick" (Tomorrow Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Greene)
An odd release, generally considered a "tax scam album," i.e. a disc manufactured for the sole purpose of getting a write-off against lost investments. The weird thing is that there wasn't even an actual band called "Maverick": this is a nearly-straight, track-for-track reissue of a roots-rock/country-rock album by a band called High Mountain Hoedown, which originally came out as a major-label release in 1970. The group was mainly a vessel for Dallas, Texas blues-rocker Jerry Lynn Williams (1948-2005) who wrote most of the songs, credited simply as J. Williams. The album also includes covers of "Good Night Irene" and a couple of Chuck Berry songs, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Nadine," as well as a version of "The Weight" by the Band. Williams went on to record a blaring solo album in '72 and several other albums over the years, and penned songs that were covered by blues luminaries such as Eric Clapton, B. B. King and Bonnie Raitt. Although his later work seemed kind of loud and artless, this one definitely fits into the proto- country-rock spectrum, with an eclectic, slightly klunky mix of material and an overall Fairport Convention-meets-Bonnie Raitt kinda vibe. Worth a spin.
Maverick Brand "Falling In Love" (19--?) (LP)
Buddy Max "Many Styles And Sounds Of..." (Cowboy Junction Records, 1980) (LP)
An outsider-art harmonica player from Florida who called himself "the singing, roller skating cowboy..." Though from what I understand, it's pretty hard to rope a calf when you're on rollerskates. Maybe it's a Florida thing. Anyway, Mr. Max and his wife Freda owned a parcel of land near Leconto, Florida that they named the Little B Ranch, and over the years they built a flea market, a skating rink and a modest opry-style music venue on the property, three strands that he spun together in his music. God bless America, right?
Buddy Max "Cowboy Junction Opry" (Cowboy Junction Records, 1980)
Here he bills himself as "America's singing, fleamarket cowboy" and includes several songs about Lecanto, Florida, where I gather he was quite the local oddball.
Buddy Max/Various Artists "Cowboy Junction Stars" (Cowboy Junction Records, 1985)
Listed as his fourth album, this disc shows Mr. Max sharing the spotlight with several locals who made up the loosely-formed Cowboy Junction Opry. Buddy Max is the featured performer on Side One, while various musicians populate Side Two, including singers Charlie Floyd, Ruth Hanson, Wally Jones, Wayne Lairson, fiddler Lloyd Stevens and numerous others. Apparently Wally Jones also a tax accountant, and provides his business number on the back cover, giving a sense of just how down-home and funky this operation really was.
Buddy Max "Little Circle B" (Cowboy Junction, 1990) (LP)
This was, according to the liner notes, Max's seventh album, with him still banging out twang tunes at the flea market, memorializing it in songs such as "Flea Market Trail" and even helpfully adding the market hours on the cover of this record. Max went into some interesting places in search of new material, penning tunes such as "Don't Walk In The Garden," "Pinky The Rabbit" and "With A Golden Screw And A Silver Top Nail." He also tackles topical material, presumably with a basis in his own life. Framed by the fall of the Soviet Union and the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Max goes all libertarian on "The Berlin Wall Must Be Torn Down In America." In the liner notes he helpfully expounds, "This used to be a free country, today it's not... You can't do anything on your own property unless you're rich. If you do anything without a permit you get jail terms, fines and confiscation of your property... President Bush told the Chinese we have democracy and freedom - where are they? We have government mafia and dictatorship... You know it's true." So, I guess finally some county commissioner (or whoever) finally asked what was going on with that whole family-owned flea market/skating rink/mini-opry out on Highway 44, and told Mr. Max he'd need to pay some back taxes? Oh, the bitter taste of bureaucracy! The madness must stop: if they make one of us get a building permit, someday they'll make ALL of us get a building permit!
Danny Maxey "500 Miles From Nashville" (NSD/National Sound Distribution, 198-?) (LP)
(Produced by Danny Maxey)
A six-song EP that seems to have been a songwriter's demo set including one original tune by Maxey, "She's Got That Special Touch," as well as the title track, "500 Miles From Nashville," by Jim Evans, which shares the same publishing company, Kathy Peg Music. The album kicks off with Dave Kirby's boozy "You're Just Another Beer Drinking Song," and moves onto stuff like Sonny Throckmorton's "If We're Not Back In Love By Monday" and Cindy Walker's "Miss Molly."
Maxi Maxwell "Interstate 40" (Custom Fidelity, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Burton A. Decker)
I'm not really that into making fun of iffy, obscuro albums or the people who made them, though I have admit that this vanity pressing from the early 1970s probably has to fall into the "so bad, it's good" category, with nods to Mrs. Miller and the Shaggs. It was recorded at Glendale, California's vanity-pressing label, Custom Fidelity back in 1972 or '73, (according to the handy Forbidden Eye website -- thanks, fellas!) and other than that, there's not a lot of info to be found on this one. The brief liner notes mention that Maxwell grew up in Tennessee and that she had what sounds like a fairly religious upbringing, though the songs are generally speaking secular country and country-folk material. Maxwell had a pretty thin voice, with a fair amount of echo thrown on it by the producers, so the closest comparison I can come up with is Skeeter Davis, although this session was hardly up to RCA's standards. The backing band -- which included West coast picker Dee Corby on lead guitar and future Nashville agent Bill Quisenberry on rhythm guitar -- provided pretty lackadaisical, perfunctory accompaniment to a set of nine original songs and a half-dozen covers... There's some decent though under-recorded pedal steel from a guy named Paul Barfels, who apparently lived on the Central California coast and played a bit locally; it's possible that this is the only record he played on. Anyway, Ms. Maxwell did put her heart into this album and wrote some goofy songs with searching, philosophical lyrics, but there's not really anything on here that I'd go back and listen to for fun... It's a curio, but hardly an obscuro-country classic.
Tricia May & CaliCo "Mountain Wood" (Special Occasions Ltd., 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Bethuy & Ron Brady)
Southern California's indie country scene was booming in the late 1980s when singer Tricia May was named the state's 1988 Female Entertainer Of The Year... She and her band CaliCo toured extensively between 1987-89 and recorded this album, with May backed by Peter Climes on banjo and guitar, Skip Edwards (piano), Ray Austin (pedal steel), and Nat Wyner on fiddle. Not sure what happened to her after this came out...
Maynard & McEwen "Keep Off The Grass" (Rural Rhythm Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Uncle Jim O'Neal)
A very pleasant set of lively, good-natured longhaired country-rock twang, with strong folk and bluegrass influences... very unlike your typical Rural Rhythm album! The Southern California duo of Richard McEwen and Tom Kuehl (aka Cowboy Maynard) swap lead vocals from song to song and get some nice assists from pickers such as pedal steel player Jim Rice (of the Brush Arbor band), banjoist Dennis Coats and fiddler Byron Berline. Maynard & McEwen had previously been in the band Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party, and various other projects, but this disc is certainly a gem in and of itself, a nice mix of traditional and progressive twang, with a distinctive feel that's not quite that easy to pin down. Recommended!
Toni Jo McAlester "Toni Jo McAlester's Back" (Word Weaver Records, 1984-?) (LP)
(Produced by Sonny Deaton & Jim Thornton)
Bill McAnally "Will You Be There" (Stop Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Miller, John Pearson & Bill Hargraves)
A native of Baldwin, Mississippi, piano player Bill McAnally established his professional bona fides plunking the keys in Memphis before moving to Kansas City in 1963, where he cut this rough-hewn hard-country album using all-local talent and the production crew at the Cavern Sound studios, a regional powerhouse that recorded numerous artists in the KC area. The music is great and although McAnally was a pretty crude vocalist, there's immense authenticity and charm to his chunky barroom style, which varies between a Mickey Gilley piano-thumper vibe and more straightforward old-school honky-tonk. Besides, I'm a real sucker for country album photos that show the pizza parlours the bands played at on the cover. The repertoire is almost all honkytonk cover tunes, with one song by McAnally ("One More Time") and the title track, "Will You Be There," written by producer Lee Miller. It's swell stuff... really!
Ray McAuley "Sometimes Good, Sometimes Bad" (RCA-Canada, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Laurie Wallace & Ed Molyski)
Just as his star was beginning to rise, Canadian country singer Ray McAuley (1945-1978) passed away unexpectedly from an aneurysm, after releasing this lone album in 1977. McAuley was from an English-speaking family in Douglastown, Gaspe, Quebec, and co-founded the Wild Country band in Montreal with guitar picker Ed Molyski.
Ray McAuley "Memories" (RCA-Canada, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Laurie Wallace)
A posthumous album, made of odds and sods assembled by the guys in Wild Country. Most tracks feature spoken introductions by McAuleys bandmate, Ed Molyski.
Dale McBride - see artist discography
Janet McBride - see artist discography
Chuck McCabe "Live At The Woodshed" (Woodshed Records, 1972) (LP)
Chuck McCabe "Pensacola Flash" (Woodshed Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Cass & Chuck McCabe)
California twangster Chuck McCabe (1944-2010) played in several late '60s rock bands, notably Six Penny Opera and Phoenix, and who worked as a staff writer for ABC Records in Los Angeles. Originally from San Jose, McCabe later moved up north of San Francisco, but continued to make new music well into the 21st Century, shifting into a more folk-oriented singer-songwriter mode, while mentored many aspiring songwriters over the years. This is a fun album, packed with original material; the best stuff is on Side One, which opens with the cheerful country funk of "Chicken Dinner At The Firehouse" and also includes the delightful novelty number, "Our House," which I guess I must have heard years ago on KFAT radio. The rest of the record is more of a mixed bag, starting with "You'll Never Be Lonely With Suzanne," which seems to be a whore-with-a-heart-of-gold ballad, ala Paul Siebel's "Louise," and other songs meander a bit, like the spacy swamp-funk of "Alligator," and nothing on Side Two really matches the charm of the album's beginning. Still, there's some nice stuff on here... definitely worth keeping on your radar. McCabe also released several CDs, decades later in the digital era.
Pete McCabe "The Man Who Ate The Plant" (Tumbleweed Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Szymczyk)
A novelty-oriented folkie from Denver who was "discovered" while playing in local clubs, Pete McCabe was flown out to LA to record this album, with backing from a bunch of elite studio session players... On the country side of the spectrum, Buddy Emmons plays pedal steel... McCabe didn't become the next Dylan or anything, but he did gain some Dr. Demento-esque notoriety.
John David McCain "Laramie In Winter" (Starwood Corporation, 1977) (LP)
A local-folkie/country-type thing from Laramie, Wyoming. This six-song EP was uber-uber- DIY, with the liner notes onto a xeroxed sheet of white office paper, glued to the back... So, yeah...good luck finding a copy!
Mary McCaslin - see artist discography
Jody McCauley & His Country Cousins "Grandma's Hill" (World Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Leahy)
Playing a lot of original material, San Francisco Bay Area pedal steel player Jody McCauley is joined by the Bob Meighan Band, a talented but low-key crew, including folks like singers Red Murrell and Buddy Wheeler, and some banjo licks by bluegrasser Elmo Shropshire (later of Patsy & Elmo "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" infamy...) A decade earlier, McCauley had been playing a gig backing Truitt Cunningham as part of the house band for the Red Garter nightclub, in Folsom, California.
Wes McCauley "Troubador" (Kat-Deb Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Leahy)
Amateur songwriter Wes McCauley was a telephone lineman and Vietnam veteran who grew up in Pennsylvania coal country, a background he reflects on in a couple of songs here, "Last Day In The Mines" and "Stay Away From The Mines." McCauley was not a great singer, musician, or songwriter, but this is still a very appealing album, as it oozes simplicity and sincerity, a ragged, truly authentic vanity album that exemplifies the whole "real people playing real music" ethos. McCauley was the bass player in a band with guitarist Dave Saunders, who contributes liner notes in which he details a life-threatening motorcycle accident that McCauley had in '71. After his recovery, McCauley recorded this album with Saunders on guitar and additional vocals from a gal named Janet Gilroy. All the songs on Side One were originals, including one called "Mr. Johnny Cash," with a spoken introduction which alludes to Cash's left-leaning politics, and "Count To Ten," which is a great oddball novelty song. He also covers several late-'60s/early-'70s hits from the folk-flavored end of the countrypolitan spectrum, stuff like Bobby Bare's "Detroit City," social commentaries like "Six White Horses" and "Skip A Rope," and a clunky but compelling version of "Tombstone Every Mile." Definitely not a record that will appeal to everyone, but I kinda like it.
Floyd McClellan "I'm An Ex-Convict From A Florida Chain Gang" (Sagitario/S&P Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Floyd McClellan)
Well, the title really says it all. Mr. McClellan was sentenced to a seven-year sentence for armed robbery back in the late 1940s, serving his time in the Florida State Penitentiary. Many years later some friends got him to record this album, which is filled with rueful, country-flavored numbers meant to expose the cruelty of the prison system... On Side Two, McClellan slips into an alternate persona, "Rebel Superstar," which I guess was kind of a hillbilly Ziggy Stardust thing... I'm not sure, but McClellan may have been living in Southern California when this one was made...
Delbert McClinton - see artist discography
Cowboy Joe McConkey "Cowboys And Indians" (Playground Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Producer not listed)
A crudely-hewn children's album featuring songs and recitations by "Cowboy" Joe McConkey, a modestly musical fella who remains a figure of mystery despite a brief but earnest online search. There's no date on this off-brand, budget-line LP, nor any info about the producer or any musicians that may have been backing Cowboy Joe. Made in Hollywood, it's a reasonably entertaining album in the same vein as similar discs from Gene Autry, Frank Luther and Roy Rogers, with its main distinction being McConkey's rough, chunky presentation. I'm guessing this came out in the early, Kennedy-era 'Sixties, since Joel P. McConkey filed a bunch of song copyrights around 1960-61 and the LP liner notes mention that two of these tracks -- "Little Wahoo" and "The Legend Of Crystal Rock" -- were his own compositions. McConkey seems to have been involved in the postwar hillbilly scene: on March 6, 1948, Billboard mentioned him playing in a band called the Eagle Pass Rangers, along with Zeb Carver and his son, steel player Jody Carver, holding down a radio show on WSLB, Ogsdenburg, New York. He also released at least a couple of singles under his own name, including "Angelina"/"I Wrote A Letter," on the Empala label, which was based in Hollywood. As far as I can tell, McConkey didn't work in the film industry, although the album informs us he was a "singer, musician, composer, broncbuster, roper, knife-thrower, crackshot, champ rider and soldier - a man of many talents."
Dan McCorison "Dan McCorison" (MCA Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Chris Hillman)
The first solo album and biggest commercial success for singer-songwriter Dan McCorison, who came out of Colorado's booming indie-billy country scene, having previously played in the popular hippie twang band, Dusty Drapes & The Dusters. This album was recorded with help from producer Chris Hillman, who brought in some top LA country talent, including guitarist James Burton and Emory Gordy, Bernie Leadon and steel player Al Perkins. The record was promoted as a mainstream country album, though the single, "That's The Way My Woman Loves Me," barely cracked into the Billboard Country Top 100. Nonetheless, McCorison found work as a session player in LA, and was part of Al Perkins' usual suspects crew. He's also self-released several indie albums over the years.
Dick & Georgia McCormack "Who Are We Trying To Kid?" (Noah's Ark Records, 1974--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerice Bergstrom, Jon Bergstrom, Dexter Brown & Mike Kipp)
Mose McCormack "Beans And Make Believe" (CMH Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by John Wagner)
Mose McCormack "After All These Years" (JWRS, 2009)
Billy McCoy "Introducing Billy McCoy" (Verla Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by J. Andy Thompson)
Radio deejay Billy McCoy was a fixture in Oregon's country scene for several decades, hosting the "Skip-A-Long Show" in Eugene for a couple of decades -- starting in 1950 -- before he cut this album. He formed his own band in 1969, with singer-drummer Linda Jackson and guitarist Ron Wise, and he also was a prolific songwriter, as seen on this album, which is all original material. He wasn't actually that great a singer -- his plainspoken voice is nice enough, but his phrasing is a little rough. Still, this is a charming album, recorded at the Ripcord Records studios (where else?) but released on a local Oregon label. Lots of good songs with a true-country feel, and plenty of echoes of folks like George Jones, Buck Owens and other classic country stars... Highlights include "Little Earl Made The Big Time," a song about a local bus driver (with some nice local references) and "The Address Was Right," a real weeper about a guy who comes home from prison to find out that his gal wasn't really waiting for him, after all. McCoy might not have been a great singer, but he was a real country fan and put his heart into this album... Definitely worth a spin if you can track it down!
Billy McCoy "Walk On Man" (Verla Records, 19--?) (LP)
Billy McCoy "We Are Forever" (1997)
Billy McCoy "The Big Picture" (2006)
The Charlie McCoy Band "One For The Road" (1986) (LP)
This was a souvenir album of McCoy's mid-'Eighties road band, made up of Si Edwards on drums, steel guitarist Russ Hicks, his brother David Hicks on bass, singer Laney Hicks and Vip Vipperman on guitar. These folks had been playing together for years in a variety of settings, including as the house bands for Hee Haw, several other TV shows in Nashville, as a Music City studio unit, and on vinyl as members of the group Barefoot Jerry. This album throws special focus on vocalist Laney Hicks, an Alabama gal who joined McCoy's band back in 1977, when she first tried making it as a solo artist, recording a string of singles with backing by McCoy and his crew; it was while working with McCoy that she met and eventually married Russ Hicks. In addition to some solo spotlights, she also sings a couple of duets with Charlie McCoy. Around the time this album came out, Vipperman had also established himself as an up-and-coming songwriter, penning Randy Travis hit, "1982," and a few other tunes that made it into the charts.
Red McCoy & The Sons Of The Soil "Country And Gospel" (MVM-Mount Vernon Music, 1963-?) (LP)
A budget-line album with an awful lot of kick... this one's a doozy! "Red McCoy" was the nom-du-cheapo of hillbilly singer Wayne Busbice (Busby), a Louisiana lad who recorded under his own name as well as in a band with his brother, bluegrass mandolinist Buzz Busby. These recordings date back to the late 1950s, when they were originally released as singles on a variety of smaller local labels. As far as musican quality goes, this stuff is the bomb as far as I'm concerned -- rollicking, uptempo, pure hillbilly twang. Busby mined deep into rockabilly riffs that echoed the chunka-chunka style of Johnny Cash as well as more teen-sounding tunes, but there is no mistaking his pure Southern roots. As advertised, the disc is evenly split between secular country and sentimental gospel material, all of it rough-cut but rock-solid and quite satisfying. Highlights here include the heartrendingly earnest religious number, "Be Careful Of Your Father's Name," as well as the super-kooky, super-awesome hillbilly novelty tune, "Rock and Roll Atom," which attempts a musical explication of pre-quantum atomic physics within the confines of a two-minute pop song. Fans of classic Louvin Brothers recordings will find a lot to enjoy here, as well. According to AMG, Busby apparently quit recording -- for the most part -- in the early 1960s, going first into the military and then into public life as an educator. Like his brother, he later tilted towards bluegrass music, though more as a behind-the-scenes kinda guy than as a musician, running the independent Webco label for about a decade during the 1980s. This is the only album under the Red McCoy monicker, though a couple of other LPs recorded as Wayne Busby (and a few random Busby Brothers tracks) await listeners who've had the luck to find this disc first.
Wes McCoy & North Country "This Mask That I'm Wearing" (North Country Productions, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Wariner & Mike Schrimpf)
Another hopeful contender in Nashville... This album is notable as another stepping stone in Steve Wariner's early years, when he was doing studio work in the years before his early '80s breakthrough. In addition to producing the album, Wariner plays guitar and bass -- I'd guess this was one of the last projects he did at this level, since he is credited as an RCA artist in the liner notes. The album features one song partially credited to McCoy and three to the band's guitar picker, Rich Blackmore, including the barroom romper, "Crazy Things At Closing Time," which is an album highlight -- a drunken one-night stand novelty song that's like the sad, hungover sequel to "The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." Okay, so here's the thing about this album: although McCoy had a rumbly baritone that could have passably gotten him into Dave Dudley territory, his vocals are uneven and his phrasing is often off the beat and awkward -- he just wasn't the world's best singer, if the truth be told. But he's plenty enthusiastic and the band backs him with admirable gusto, giving a strong approximation of the rootsier-sounding Top Forty country of the era. Not really a great record, but maybe worth tracking down for a tune or two, particularly for "Crazy Things," which is a nice, seedy barroom song.
Ron McCranie & The Three Gents "A Salute To George Jones" (Western News Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Sweeney & Roy Ward)
This album was sponsored by a country music fanzine/newspaper based in Vacaville, California called Western News. They heard about singer Ron McCranie from Capitol Records star Stoney Edwards, whose manager, Ray Sweeney produced this album. The set list is all cover songs -- "The Race Is On," "White Lightning," "Window Up Above," et. al. -- along with one original, a George Jones tribute song, "That Jones Boy From Texas," written by McCranie. The backing band was a little wild and galloping, though McCranie is a pleasantly robust singer, capable and resonant and pretty good at imitating Jones' intonation and style. There are a few rough edges in his phrasing, but I think the producers of this album were right: he really could have made it, if given the right breaks. A nice record!
Judy McCravy "Introducing Judy" (JBP/Joe Beard Productions) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Green & Joe Beard)
I'm not entirely sure where this gal was from, or when this record was made, but it's definitely a country outing, with covers of hits such as "Stand By Your Man," "Rocky Top," "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," Kris Kristofferson's "One Day At A Time" and "I Fall To Pieces," as well as some gospel standards such as "Amazing Grace" and "I'll Fly Away." She's backed by Jon Carleton (steel guitar, banjo, mandolin), Joe Beard (keyboards, arrangements), Dave Stype (banjo), and Billy McCravy (bass) as well as some trumpet and saxophones... The liner notes doesn't say where she's from, alas, though it's possible she was from Spartanburg, South Carolina, or thereabouts. Any additional info is welcome.
Chuck McDermott & Wheatstraw "Last Straw" (Back Door Records, 1976) (LP)
Chuck McDermott & Wheatstraw "Follow The Music" (Back Door Records, 1977) (LP)
Chuck McDermott & John Stewart "Blondes" (Allegiance Records, 1982) (LP)
A collaboration with country-folk icon John Stewart...
Chuck McDermott "The Turning Of The Wheel" (Sun Sign Records, 1986) (LP)
Singin' Sam McDole "When You Think You've Hit Bottom, Just Look Down" (Conestoga Records, 1982)
An African-American country singer who was apparently a longtime bus driver for the Anchorage, Alaska "People Mover" transit system, Sam McDole was known for singing country songs while he drove... This album is mostly cover tunes, mainly oldies and standards, although the title track is a Gail Davies song. McDole contributes two originals, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" and "Set 'Em Up, Bartender."
Big Jim McDonald "Gettin' Free" (Bridge Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Vest, John Boyd & Al McGuire)
Christian country by a guy from Camino, California, near Sacramento... The musicians are not listed, but this was recorded at LSI Studios in Nashville, so it seems likely McDonald is backed by a bunch of Music City pros. Bridge Records was an imprint of the Chapel label, a Christian music powerhouse from Mountain View, CA.
Roger McDowell "Living On Love" (Deja Vu Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Overstreet)
Sharon McDowell "Songs Of Love And Praise" (Benson Sound, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Benson)
This country-gospel singer from Merced, California headed back East to Oklahoma to record an album at the Benson Sound studios, with Okie artists such as Benny Kubiak on fiddle, label owner Larry Benson playing piano, and Billy Walker on lead guitar and Jerry Hall playing steel. The songs are all originals, almost all of them written by Mrs. McDowell, including some written or co-written with her husband and daughter. The arrangements vary between swooping string arrangements and genuine twang -- the Benson Sound label specialized in independent gospel artists -- and some tracks have a genuinely weird feel to them. This is an anthemic, super-Jesus-y, 700 Club-ish album, though what makes it interesting (and a bit kitschy) is McDowell's thick, ultra-rural voice -- this gal was country, even if her music was more old-school Contemporary Christian. Still, some nice pedal steel and chicken-pickin' on some of the tracks... so maybe it's "country" enough.
Eddie McDuff "...Sings Suddenly" (Trace Records, 196--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Sullivan)
Independent honkytonk from mid-1960s Texas... There's a reason you haven't heard of this guy, and that's because he died young... Edward Calvin ("Eddie") McDuff (1935-1968) had a civil service day job, but was also a longtime regular on the Dallas-based "Big D Jamboree" and composed prolifically with fellow locals George Kent and Orville Couch. Indeed, it was this album's lineup that grabbed my attention: backing McDuff are some high-powered pickers, including Orville Couch on rhythm guitar, Doyle Grisham (steel guitar), Chuck Jennings (lead guitar), George Kent (guitar), Harland Powell (bass) and Micky Williams on drums. The liner notes are by Groovy Joe Poovey, who at the time was the music director of radio station KPCN. Poovey tries to hype the local "Dallas Sound" as a Bakersfield-style anti-Nashville option, and in McDuff's case, there may have been some truth to that proposition: Couch and McDuff co-wrote the song "Hello Trouble," which was recorded by Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb and others, and is included on this album. He also placed songs with Frankie Miller ("Big Talk Of The Town"), Marty Robbins ("Fresh Out Of Tears"), Margie Singleton ("Forget Me Not") and was posthumously covered by some of the guys who back him here, such as Couch and Kent, and Joe Poovey himself. (There's also controversy as to whether McDuff composed the melody to the Jim Reeves hit, "Welcome To My World," as a work-for-hire job, but I'll leave that dispute to the experts...) At any rate, Eddie McDuff died tragically young on May 3, 1968 when his flight from Houston to Dallas crashed, killing everyone on board.
Maureen McElderry "A Fool Such As I" (Train On The Island Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Dakota Dave Hull, Maureen McElderry, Peter Ostroushko & Jerry Steckling)
A passel of Minnesota folkies doing acoustic covers of country oldies... The band includes Dakota Dave Hull, Peter Ostroushko, Butch Thompson, Mike Cass on dobro, Bill Hinkley on banjo, with strong ties to the whole Twin Cities/Prairie Home Companion crowd. Good stuff!
John McEuen - see artist discography
Jerry Dale McFadden "Stand And Cast A Shadow" (Reptile Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Scott Tutt & Jon D'Amelio)
Ron McFarlin "Ron McFarlin" (Round Robin Records, 1975) (LP)
This guy is a favorite of the whole "outsider art," laugh-at-song-poem-records crowd... Partly I think his notoriety comes from his having been from LA, heart of all that is irony-driven and seedy-worshipping, but also because the content matter is compelling: McFarlin's ragged, disjointed barfly ballads had kind of a Bukowski-with-twang tang... He released at least three albums, two of them self-titled, documenting a certain strata of Los Angeles seediness...
Ron McFarlin "Vagabond At Heart" (Round Robin, 197--?) (LP)
Ron McFarlin "Ron McFarlin" (Round Robin, 197--?) (LP)
This was his third (and final?) album, also self-titled...
Linda McFaye "...Sings At The Imperial Ballroom" (Gulf Coast Records, 19--?) (LP)
Sporting a bodacious miniskirt and go-go boots, Linda McFaye was the lead singer at Anthony "Doc" Castellana's 375-seat Imperial Ballroom, in Tampa, Florida. She's backed by the house musicians, Doc's Band, several members of which sing lead vocals on several tracks. Not all the band is identified in the liner notes, just the guys who sing -- this includes drummer Don Dee, guitar picker Jerry Smith, bassist Ken Waters, and Curly Ames, emcee. Castellana also performs on one track, a duet with McFaye called, "Cream Cheese And Jelly," one of two Castellana originals also released as a single on the Gulf Coast label, the other song being "My Baby's Gone." The rest of the record is heavy on covers, and not all of them from the country field, including versions of "Rocky Top," "Sittin' On The Dock Of A Bay," "Swanee," and "When The Saints Go Marching In." The album closes with a song credited to Curly Ames, "Good Rockin' Tonight," (which may raise a few eyebrows among fans of Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris). It's worth noting that Castellana, who went by the name "Doc" at least as far back as the 1950s, was said to be associated with the local mafia; he previously owned a bar called the Red Mill, which was managed by a guy named Jimmy Bruno, who was brought up in front of the Senate hearings investigating the Trafficante family... So, there's that. At any rate, regardless of who backed it, the Imperial Ballroom was a real, viable country music venue throughout the late 'Sixties and early 'Seventies, drawing top Nashville talent as well as hosting locals such as Bill Floyd, Linda McFaye and Buck Starr. By 1974, there had been some kind of change in ownership, with the venue being listed in Billboard as "Tammy's Imperial Ballroom." According to show notices int eh Tampa Times, McFaye seems to have been involved with the Imperial circa 1967-68, which jives with the stuff she was covering on this album. She also recorded at least one single years later, in 1977, including a song called "Was Our Love A Game" that was published under her real name, Linda F. Gatto.
Horrell McGann "April Fool" (TK Productions/Cloud Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Alaimo & Michael Hurley)
Weirdo, oddball '70s outsider rock. Although this album is packed with lush, overly-orchestrated cosmic pop and grinding blues-rock, there's also a significant "country" undertone, particularly with the participation of erstwhile Holy Modal oddball Michael Hurley, and some sweet pedal steel and dobro picking by Joe Hart. The songs are idiosyncratic, kooky and (though slickly produced) decidedly non-commercial... The themes go from low to high and back again: on Side Two, "Gambler's Lament" tells the tale of two dudes betting it all on the Packers, while "Honey In The Negev" is an ode to refugees from the Holocaust, followed by the allusive, poetic "Growin' Your Own," which I assume is a druggie reference, it being the '70s and all. This is a weird, only-in-the-Seventies album, possibly worth veneration if you're already in the orbit of Mssr. Hurley and his crowd... Not enough twang for me, but I do appreciate the high level of eccentricity, combined with state-of-the-art pop production. An odd one. Apparently McGann was a pseudonym for Dr. Benji Brumberg, a Florida optometrist with a flair for musical expression... As far as I know, this was his only album.
Wes McGhee - see artist discography
Alan McGill "Sings Words And Music By Roy Rogers" (Sacred Records, 19--?) (LP)
A Southern gospel/Christian country set, drawing on the work of cowboy movie icon Roy Rogers... Baritone Alan McGill was originally from Maryland, but worked out west as "an active part of the Hollywood Christian group, among whom are Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Jimmie Dodd and Redd Harper," in the words of the local Long Beach Press-Telegram. In his late-1950s/1960s heyday McGill released several albums and toured widely. This is probably one of his more "country" records.
Don McGinnis "Travelin' Light" (Numero Group, 2018) (MP3)
A swell set of half groovy/half goofy country stuff from singer-guitarist Don McGinnis, who seems to have been in the orbit of Hollywood cowboys such as Hal Southern, and released a string of late '60s/early '70s singles on the Reena Records label, which was located in Los Angeles. Details on his career are scant -- I'm not sure if he's the same Don McGinnis who went into pop and rock production, as well as composing and arranging for film and TV. Maybe. Anyway, this is a collection of his country records, ranging from post-Jim Reeves-ish ballads (and Jim Ed Brown-ian echoes of the Jim Reeves style) to weirder, more novelty oriented material. There are contending influences in these recordings -- the predominant feel is of early countrypolitan, the ambitious melodies and overwrought, often clunky lyrics, but there's an undercurrent of the budding SoCal country-rock scene as well... I couldn't find any info about who was backing McGinnis on these records, but it seems likely that some of the guys in his "Cactus Cut-Ups" band were from the underemployed longhair session pickers that did budget-label work-for-hire, folks like Dennis Payne or Jerry Cole. (McGinnis and the Cut-Ups also cut a super-Bakersfield-y duet with Joe McGinnis, who I assume was his brother. Joe McGinnis is the only other musician I've identified so far in the Cut-Ups crew...) At any rate, this is a very interesting collection. It may take a while to settle into McGinnis's imperfect but highly individual style, and while some tracks seem a little too baroque, there are definite winners, such as the haunting "Memory Bound," as well as "Paying The Price," an over-the-top novelty number with a dark, gothic flair that would make Porter Wagoner proud. The Numero album is digital only, alas, but still pretty fun, and definitely easier to track down than the original singles.
Michael McGinnis "Welcome To My Mind" (Forward Records, 1969) (LP)
Michael McGinnis "Rodeo Gypsies" (20th Century Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Halverson)
Despite the promising album title and the outlaw-esque artwork, this album isn't as twangy or Jerry Jeff Walker-ish as one might hope... There are a couple of country-flavored songs, most notably "The Great Western Rip-Off," where McGinnis opines about the failed promises of the American cowboy mythology, but the album quickly lapses into lavish, overly orchestrated countrypolitan/orchestral pop, tempered by soulful, bluesy tunes that are a little reminiscent of The Band. (The funky piano and organ work by session player Tom Canning is particularly nice, though not consistently present... The tracks featuring Canning's keyboards add a sort of Muscle Shoals sound to the project...) The other thing that drew me to this record was the musician credits, which includes noteworthy country-rock pickers such as Dean Park, Al Perkins, Dean Webb (as well as bassist David Hungate, later of the pop band Toto...) Overall, I suppose this is worth checking out, though it's not really a lost hippie-country gem. I couldn't find much info about McGinnis, although the info-sphere indicates that he was one of the dozens of musicians who passed through the folk-pop New Christy Minstrels during the mid-1960s, and recorded at least one other solo album besides this one...
Bat McGrath & Don Potter "Introducing..." (Epic Records, 1969) (LP)
This duo from upstate New York only made a few little ripples at the time this album came out, but later on songwriter Bat McGrath and guitarist Don Potter each made big waves in the worlds of Top 40 Country and Pop... McGrath worked as a lyricist for a then-unknown Chuck Mangione, while Potter worked his way into the Nashville elite, becoming best known as the producer behind the slick, synthy sounds of The Judds. McGrath also had a country side (as heard in his solo stuff below) and also moved to Nashville where he became a successful Top Country songwriter...
Bat McGrath "From The Blue Eagle" (Amherst Records, 1976) (MP3)
Acoustic-based 1970s folk-rock/AOR with a definite country touch... McGrath had earlier been in a duo with Don Potter, but appears here as a solo artist (even though Potter was on board as a supporting musician...) Nice stuff that coasts between country-rock and rootsy singer-songwriter terrain... Certainly worth a spin!
Bat McGrath "The Spy" (Amherst, 1978) (LP)
The music shifts here, focussing more clearly on a soft-pop sound, closer to Jackson Browne and the softer side of the Eagles, and further away from folks like Jonathan Edwards. A little bland, to be honest, and somewhat same-y and monotonous. Oh, well.
Lee McGregor "Music Is Love In Search Of A Word" (Goldust Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Emmit Brooks & Lee McGregor)
Doug McGuire & Friendship "Take Me Along" (Multi-Media Records, 1977-?) (LP)
This bar-band from Bozeman, Montana had a novelty-oriented approach, seen in the cover art, which spotlights bassist Sherry Lee in some major cheesecake photos. Tons of original material, some of which also appeared on various singles.
Doug McGuire & Friendship "Doug McGuire & Friendship" (Multi-Media Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Strange)
This half-live album features all original material, written by Doug McGuire or by other members of the band, including a few by bassist/singer Sherry Lee, piano player Kip McFaul and even one by lead guitarist John Wehren. About half the album was recorded live at the Ramada Inn lounge in Bozeman, Montana; the rest of the record was produced in studio sessions helmed by Billy Strange, with Nashville pros like Hal Rugg, Tony Migliore and Terry McMillan beefing up the band.
Mike McGuirk "Country Feelings" (FMA Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Boles & Mike Schiffman)
Not to be confused with the WWF announcer, Michelle ("Mike") McGuirk, this fella from Long Island, New York came to producer Jack Boles' attention and they booked time at Richey Studios, in Nashville to cut this album which is about half classics, half originals. McGuirk penned several songs, including "Crazy Baby," "I Can't Believe (You're Callin' My Name Again)," "Lookin' For An Angel," "You're The Only One For Me," and "With No One To Care (When I'm Lonely)," which was co-written with his mother, Ida Frances McGuirk. As if that wasn't charming enough, Boles mentions in his liner notes that Mr. McGuirk had campaigned long and hard to get old-timer Elton Britt a spot in Nashville's country music walkway of fame. Aw. He's backed here by a band at least partly made up of Music City A-Listers: Fred Newell, Willie Rainsford, The Cates Sisters... As far as I know, this was McGuirk's only album, but he was sure keeping some nice company!
Don McHan "The Country, Bluegrass And Gospel Of Don McHan" (Laurel Records, 1970) (LP)
The title of this album says a lot about singer and guitarist Don McHan, whose early days were spent picking bluegrass, notably with the Jim & Jesse band during the early '60s. He wrote and played country music as well, most notably co-composing Loretta Lynn's topical hit "The Pill" (a controversial single which hit the Top 5 in 1975 but was originally recorded in 1972) as well as a string of gospel songs recorded by Jimmie Davis. Like a lot of country artists, McHan felt the pull of religion more strongly in later years and became more exclusively a gospel artist. I'm not sure if this was his first album, but it was one of several released on his own independent Laurel label...
Don McHan "...Sings Songs Of Home" (Laurel Records, 197-?) (LP)
Don McHan "New Songs I Love" (Laurel Records, 197-?) (LP)
Don McHan "New Country" (Transworld Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Deaton)
From the looks of things, this was a mid-1970s record, though there's no date on the album... McHan recorded these sessions in Bristol, West Virginia with a local studio crew from "Tandem Studios." He wrote or co-wrote half the songs, with most tracks credited to Tom Keane... The liner notes mention that he had a regular gig playing guitar in the Bonnie Lou & Buster Show, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Don McHan "Country Boy Don McHan Sings The Gospel" (Laurel Records, 1973-?) (LP)
Don McHan "The Wondrous Works Of God" (Songtime Records, 19--?) (LP)
Ellen McIlwaine - see artist discography
Vern McKee & The Hard Time Band "Fathers And Sons" (Blue Denim Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Blank)
This album was recorded in Vacaville prison, where Vern McKee was a long-term inmate, having been sentenced for murder in 1972. In the late '70s McKee was one of the prisoners involved in helping convince the California Arts Council to create an arts program for the prison system, and helped organize arts programs inside Vacaville. This is an album of all-original material, some of it quite good actually, with desolate lyrics that are more insightful about prison life than many country records that cover similar territory. McKee had a good voice for country, a little thin, but expressive and with some real twang to it. The album includes one track by Steve Grogan, a Manson family member who was in Vacaville at the time, and who also plays lead guitar throughout the album. They slip into hippie/Southern rock jam-band mode from time to time, but for the most part this a more compelling record than you might imagine.
McKendree Spring "Too Young To Feel This Old" (Pye Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mark London)
The seventh album by this folk-rock band from New York... Mostly, this is a commercially-leaning 1970s soft-pop set with distinctly country-rock riffs in the mix. They sound a lot like Top Forty bands such as Firefall and Poco, as well as the mellower, mid-'70s Neil Young, tempered by traces of the progressive folk sound of Fairport Convention. Although there are a few lightly avant touches (notably a six-minute long fiddle medley by Michael Dreyfuff) the overall aim is pretty mainstream and easy accessible. Sounds nice, too, though it may be less challenging than their earlier records.
Fred McKenna "...Of CBC TV Singalong Jubilee" (Arc Records, 19--?) (LP)
Canadian multi-instrumentalist Fred McKenna (1934-1977) was born blind and picked up music as a kid, developing an unusual style based on the Hawaiian lap steel technique, where he placed his guitar flat on his lap, picking and playing the chords palms-down. Other musicians, such as Thumbs Carlisle, have played lap-style guitar, although McKenna also learned several other string instruments this way as well, including the banjo, fiddle and mandolin. Although he died young, McKenna had a very successful career, recording prolifically, playing on CBC radio and TV and producing numerous records for other artists. Towards the end of his life, McKenna was hired by George Hamilton IV as the music director for Hamilton's nationally syndicated TV show. (Thanks to The Canadian Country Music Association for filling in a few blanks in McKenna's career.)
Fred McKenna "Steel Rail Blues" (Arc Records, 19--?) (LP)
Fred McKenna "Plain Old Three Chord Hurtin' County Songs" (RCA-Camden, 19--?) (LP)
Barbara McKenzie & Wendell McKenzie "Meet Barbara And Wendell" (Cascade Records, 1968--?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Sneed, Sr.)
The McKenzies were a married couple who also performed in a group called The Husbands & Wives, along with Gene and Pam Brown. The liner notes tell us that when they made this album they were holding down a gig at a place called Lee & Andy's Frontier Bar in Ketchikan, Alaska, though they seem to have been from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest; this album came out on the Sneed Family's label, which was based in Spokane, Washington. The material is mostly of fairly mainstream 1960s provenance, hits like "The Bottle Let Me Down," "Break My Mind," "Gentle On My Mind" and "Paper Mansions." Though most of their material was contemporary to 1967, they also covered Leapy Lee's "Little Arrows" and Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," which were hits in '68. Unfortunately, there's no information on the musicians who backed them here, though it seems likely that a Sneed or two were involved. A single of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was broken off of this album, but released under Mrs. McKenzie's name.
Thurmon McKinney "Once I Wrote A Song" (MCW Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Figlio)
Sharon McKnight "Another Side Of Sharon McKnight" (Legend Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by John Kniest & Sharon McKnight)
At the time this album was made, singer Sharon McKnight was a star on the San Francisco cabaret scene, but years away from her Broadway breakthrough... Still, she was far enough into her career to make fun of herself by "going country," or as she put it, getting back to her roots ("Modesto, not brunette") and dip into a bit of twang. The songs include "Put A Nickel In The Jukebox And Bring Back Patti Page," "Tapedeck In His Tractor" (written by Ronee Blakely) "Stand By Your Man" and, interestingly enough, Mickey Gilley's "Don't The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." The band includes Bay Area roots music stalwart Don McClellan on steel guitar.
Ray McLain "Reflections: Introducing Ray McLain" (Rayco Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Leahy)
This one looks pretty iffy, though there is definitely some legit country material in the repertoire. Mr. McLain was apparently originally from Ohio -- his back-cover bio says he graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, then headed to New York to seek fame and fortune on Broadway. He was in a 'Fifties vocal group called the Savoir Faires (though as far as I can tell they never recorded anything) and later headed out to Hollywood. He was living in Palm Springs, California when he started up his own record label, Rayco Records, which released a few singles as well as these two LPs. I'm not sure if McLain ever performed as a lounge act or whatever. The country content is fairly minimal, covers of a few big hits, such as "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "For The Good Times" and "Release Me," amid pop vocal standards such as "My Way" and some pop-folk tunes like "Everybody's Talkin'," and "Leaving On A Jet Plane." There's no date on this disc, but from the set list, it could be anywhere from around 1968 to 1970 or so...
Ray McLain & Eileen Preston "Lonesome Road" (Rayco Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Leahy)
Another dubious disc (at least from the viewpoint of a twangfan), although there is definitely some legit country tunes in the repertoire, again, mixed with fairly standard-issue pop and folk material. The song list includes "Streets Of Laredo," "Green Green Grass Of Home," "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Lonely Street," along with "Amazing Grace, "Feelings," etc. The liner notes rehash Mr. McLain's bio in a way that makes me suspect (along with the choice of material) that this came out not long after the first album. Here we also meet aspiring actress/singer Eileen Preston, a young gal from Orlando, Florida, who moved to LA to become "a Powers model," which meant she was under contract to the John Robert Powers Agency, a fairly sketchy organization which specialized in getting pretty girls work in the film industry... or at least promising to. The liner notes brightly inform us that Preston and McLain are backed by "California's finest musical craftsmen," but neglect to give us any names.
Freddie McLean "Meet Freddie McLean and The MacBrothers Band" (UCA Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Freddie McLean & Bob Yauger)
A self-described "bunch of good 'ole boys from up state New York," this Utica-area band featured Freddie McLean McLean on fiddle and guitar, along with Jack Barlow (piano), Bob Gardner (drums), Hank Honebein (drums) and Danny Roberts playing bass. The repertoire was mostly cover songs, along with two originals, "Devil On Your Shoulder" and "Yukon Jack," penned by McLean. The set list includes gems from Charlie Daniels, Buck Owens, Peter Rowan, Hank Thompson, with a surprising amount of material about the South, songs like "Dixie On My Mind," "South's Callin' Me," and "The South's Gonna Do It Again," as well as the stoner anthem, "Panama Red." There's no date on the album, though it looks late '70s/early '80s; McLean was still doing local shows around Syracuse and Oneida as late as the 1990s, though after that the trail grows cold.
Harold McLeod "Loving You" (Country Road Records) (LP)
(Produced by Manford Harper)
A (very) private album from North Carolina, with covers of country hits by Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, et. al. I'm not sure if there are any originals on here, though...
Gary McMahan "Colorado Blue" (Tomato Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by John Simon)
A well-produced but still rather flawed album... Mostly, it's songwriter McMahan's voice: I guess folks who are into his labelmate, Townes Van Zandt, might be more forgiving about it, but he sounds pretty awkward and strained to me. Also, the songs are kind of overwritten and ungainly. He's sort of a souped-up Bill Staines-style singing-cowboy folkie, mixing yodeling with country twang and plenty of rodeo-themed songs. It sure doesn't hurt having steel player Buddy Emmons adding some super-sweet licks; other notable sidemen include Kenny Kosek on fiddle and Eric Weissberg picking guitar, and even the Jordanaires singing on a tune or two. But despite the sleek, rich sound, the record falls flat. The repertoire includes a few cover tunes, I seem to recall one of his original tunes, "Real Live Buckaroo," being covered by somebody once upon a time -- Chris LeDoux, I think -- so that ain't nothin'. Worth checking out if you're a hardcore fan of modern-day cowpoke music, but it wasn't a keeper for me.
H. McMillan "Just H" (Songworks, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Stephen Gardner)
Just "H"? You sure? That's what you want us to put on your album? Just... the letter H? Nothing else? Wait a minute: how is that "like Cher," exactly? Dude, are you sure about this? Anyway, the not-quite-eponymous Mr. McMillan seems to have been kicking around Nashville in the early '80s, cutting this album and releasing a couple of singles, with some connection to the indie label mega-distributor, NSD, of which Songworks was one of countless short-lived imprints. An iffy singer, H. was working in a slick, Top Forty styling with vague neotrad colorations, sort of in the same lane as Moe Bandy or Mel McDaniel, et. al. The single "Goodbye Moon" was partly penned by Robb Strandlund (who wrote the Eagles hit, "Already Gone.") A later single, "Drinkin' On An Empty Heart," had a lively, uptempo vibe, but again was undercut by H.'s uneven vocals.
Larry McNeely - see artist discography
Ray 'Steel Cowboy' McNeely "...Sings Just For Friends" (Rawhide Records, 1980-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ray McNeely, John Westbrooks & Phil Griffin)
Old-school country classics sung by a guy from Greenville, South Carolina with a super-cool nickname. The local musicians backing him include Chris Payne (lead guitar), Larry Neely (steel), Donnie Wilson (piano) and Jimmy Rumsey (fiddle). The songs are all cover tunes, including chestnuts such as "Six Days On The Road" and newer hits like "Just Good Ol' Boys," which was a hit for Moe & Joe in 1979. He also covers three Marty Robbins songs and gives Robbins a shout-out in the liner notes, both for his songwriting and for his NASCAR racing.
Brownie McNeil "Folk Songs" (Sonic Records, 1960-?) (LP)
Acoustic folk ballads from the cowboys of the Texas plains, and their Mexican and Mexican-American counterparts. According to the liner notes, Mr. McNeil taught literature at the College Of Arts And Industries, at Kingsville, Texas... There's no date on this disc, but it also mentions work he did in 1959, so 1960 or perhaps a little later in the decade seems about right.
Brownie McNeil "Songs Of The Chisholm Trail" (The Ex-Students' Association Of The University Of Texas, 1973) (LP)
Your basic set of old-school cowboy songs, including classics such as "Streets Of Laredo," "Jack O' Diamonds" and "Git Along Little Dogies." While the rest of Austin was gettin' high with Willon and Waylie, Brownie McNeil was hanging out with "Little Joe The Wrangler" and good old "Diamond Joe." Also, this has to be on of the all-time greatest label names, ever.
Bob McNett & Dean McNett "The Big Country -- Featuring Shawnee" (Wheeling Records, 19--?) (LP)
A legendary local duo from Pennsylvania, Bob and Dean McNett led their band from the early 1960s almost to the end of the '70s, later taking a gig as part of the Hank Williams homage band, the Drifting Cowboys. They came by their Hank bona fides the hard way: the brothers started performing regionally as a duo when they were kids, but when Dean McNett got drafted, his brother Bob found work on the Louisiana Hayride, where Hank spotted him and recruited him for his band. Bob joined the Drifting Cowboys in 1948 and stayed with the band up until Hank's death in 1953; he accompanied Williams on his Hayride and Opry debuts, as well as on numerous hit recordings for MGM. After his discharge, Dean McNett joined the Doc Williams band on the Wheeling Jamboree, which seems to have been where the brothers were performing when they cut this album. The liner notes imply this was their first LP, although I'm sure they must have recorded a single or two prior to this... In contrast to the album below, this one is packed with original material, with all but two tracks credited to the McNett brothers. No date, alas, and no credits for the musicians backing them.
Bob & Dean (McNett) "McNett Country" (Jewel Records, 1976-?) (LP)
Great stuff. This was definitely a 1970s album, featuring covers of hits such as Mel Tillis's "Commercial Affection" and "Green Green Grass Of Home," while also dipping deep into older country traditions. Sadly, there are no real liner notes, so I'm not sure if there are any original tunes on here or not, or who was backing them on these sessions... Also, it has to be said that they sounded a bit over-the-hill, or at least low-energy, on this album... Maybe that was just their style, I dunno. They sound tremendously authentic and sincere, but just in musical terms this record might be a little inaccessible to the average twangfan. I like it, though, mostly for their real-hicks vibe. A reconstituted version of the McNett Country band came together in Y2K, and has been held together ever since, with second-generation singers Shawn and Tim McNett as the front men.
Gary McVay "But... What About Me?" (Sherwood Records, 19--?) (LP)
With his guileless, mopey album title, the hangdog expression and sideburn-adelic good ole boy looks, Alabama's Gary McVay was a ripe target for the ever-snarky social media Schadenfreude Patrol... So, yeah, sure, this album cover made the rounds on Tumblr and Pinterest, along with predictably vacuous, pointlessly cynical commentary. Hopefully by the time you read this, those companies will no longer exist, though I'm sure you'll still be able to find a copy of this record, if you just look hard enough.
Ken McWilliams & The Twilighters "Uptown Country" (Twi-Lite Records, 1968-?) (LP)
Hybridized country music with saxophones and other horns in the mix. Based in Big Rapids, Michigan, the Twilighters were a reincarnation of an earlier group called the Starliters, which started out as a pop/big band dance band, led by guitarist Dan Kirchner and multi-instrumentalist Glen Newton. Singer Ken McWilliams joined the group in the mid-1960s and brought with him a country music repertoire, which gradually became the focus of the band; following the dissolution of the original group, McWilliams took over and eventually renamed the group the Twilighters, as a nod to its origins. This LP includes his song, "Devil On Death's Highway," a disaster ballad that put the spotlight on a notoriously dangerous stretch of Highway 131, between Cadillac and Kalamazoo. The song is a fascinating hybrid, mixing teenybopper rock with rockabilly-ish twang, like Dave Dudley filling in for Frankie Avalon at a local sock-hop. Kinda neat.
Ken McWilliams "On The Road" (Award Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Shuey)
A set of all cover songs, hits and standards such as "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," "For The Good Times," "Green, Green Grass Of Home," "Tie A Yellow Ribbon, and "Okie From Muskogee." Although he didn't bring any of his own material to this session, McWilliams did make it to Nashville to record this session... Alas, the liner notes don't tell us who was on this album, just that that East Coast honkytonker and talent agent Dick Shuey produced this LP, on the same label recorded on and used to showcase artists affiliated with his agency, the Atlas Artist Bureau.
Rick McWilliams "Down The Line" (WKM Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Eugene Foster)
This album is partly a tribute to country yodeler Jimmie Rodgers, who was a not-too-distant relative of Mississippi-born singer Rick McWilliams... His grandmother, Elsie McWilliams, was Jimmie Rodgers' sister-in-law and longtime musical collaborator. Having formed a band with Rodgers in 1920, she went on to write or co-write over three dozen of the songs he recorded. Mr. McWilliams gives his granny a shout-out in the liner notes, noting her induction into the songwriter's hall of fame, and that she had recently turned 89 years old; she passed away at 89 later that year. There are several songs from the Jimmie Rodgers canon on here, as well as a couple written by Rick McWilliams as well as a couple by Bruce Brooks, and a few scattered cover tunes, such as a version of John Denver's "Back Home Again" and Bobby G. Rice's "You Lay So Easy On My Mind."
Donna Meade "Donna Meade" (DMJ Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Sid Hudson & Ronny Light)
Although she was a pretty mainstream Nashville artist, this album deserves mention here as an off-the-radar obscuro release. Probably best known as the last wife of country star Jimmy Dean, singer Donna Meade was born in Chase City, Virginia and worked for several years as a nightclub singer in Richmond before hitting Nashville in 1981. She got a gig headlining at Buddy Killen's club, the Bullpen Lounge, and in 1988 cut a major label album with Killen as producer. Way before that happened, though, she recorded this session, which seems to have been a songwriter's demo including several songs by Lee Greenwood and an early version of K. T. Oslin's "Round The Clock Lovin'," which was a successful single for Gail Davies around the same era. The backing band was a professional Music City crew that included Greg Galbraith, Jerry Kroon and Buddy Spicher, anchored by producer Sid Hudson on lead guitar. I'd have to do a little poking around, but I think Meade also worked as a studio backup singer, possibly alongside the Arlene and Bobby Harden, who appear on this album as well. Although she eventually cracked into Nashville society, Meade definitely paid her dues and worked off-the-radar for about a decade before the Mercury album came out, and even then it was only a modest success. Meade and Jimmy Dean met around 1990, married in '91 and stayed together until his death in 2010. (Note: Prague Frank speculates that this session was recorded in 1981, though it may actually have been a little later, since Davies also demo-ed "Round The Clock Lovin'," but not until '82.)
Linda Meadors "Thou Shalt Be His Witness" (Jewel Records, 1972-?) (LP)
Truly twangy country gospel by a gal from Louisville, Kentucky. Although these songs are mostly gospel standards -- "He Touched Me," "How Great Thou Art," "Where No One Stands Alone" -- Ms. Meadows endows them with real rural grit, sounding kinda like the young Wanda Jackson, with a modest piano-and-pedal steel backing that sets this disc apart from countless blandly arranged southern gospel records. Meadors had an interesting path in her show business career. She was a self-taught pianist who started performing publicly at a very young age. In her teens she started hanging around the Lincoln Jamboree, a regional "opry"-style venue in nearby Hodgenville, KY, and was offered a slot playing piano in the house band. Not long after that she was booked for an appearance on the nationally televised Stoneman Family TV show, and in 1969 she met Jerry Lee Lewis, who helped get her signed to Mercury Records. That major label fling didn't really go anywhere -- two singles came out and several other tracks stayed in the can. After flirting with secular fame, Ms. Meadows turned towards gospel, as heard on this fine album. Although she didn't like being labeled a "blind singer," Meadows graduated from the Kentucky School For The Blind, and read braille; a braille letter that she received from Helen Keller in 1958 is part of the Helen Keller archives. There were, surprisingly, several women named Linda Meadors, living in several different states, so I haven't been able nail down the other details of her biography: it seems mostly likely she was the same Linda Meadors who lived in Bowling Green, in which case she passed away in April, 2020.
Johnny Meeks "Sings Skip A Rope And Other Country Favorites" (Custom Records, 1968) (LP)
Best known as a longtime member of Gene Vincent's trailblazing rockabilly band, the Blue Caps, South Carolina guitar picker Johnny Meeks (1937-2015) went on to work in nondescript groups such as the Tune Toppers and the Champs. He apparently slid into the cheapie-label vortex as well, cutting this album for the Custom label, which seems to include several originals as well as a cover of Henson Cargill's hit, "Skip A Rope." Although these budget-line albums were sometimes packed with not-quite-as-advertised material, this does seem to Johnny Meeks playing and singing on all the tracks, and the material is really, truly great stuff. The chunky, simplistic style he brought to the Blue Caps band is intact here, adding a primitive, old-school rock'n'roll heft to the country tunes and a country twang to the more pop-oriented ballads. Mostly, this is a twangfest, and although there are no composer credits on the album, it seems likely that the originals were all written by Meeks, who wrote several hits for Vincent. Also, there's no info on the session musicians used here, which is a pity... Mostly the arrangements are pretty minimal, but there's some nice pedal steel on a few tunes, and it could have been someone like Red Rhodes doing a pick-up gig... Anyway, Meeks later did some country session work, including a gig picking on Michael Nesmith's 1972 country-rock record, Tantamount To Treason. This solo album, though, was pretty sweet, and much better than you might imagine.
Meisburg & Walters "See The Morning Breaking" (Parchment Records, 1975) (LP)
The acoustic duo of Steve Meisburg and John Paul Walters met at an open mic night in Florida, where Meisburg was an ordained minister in search of a new path, and Walters was a music major at Florida State... Becoming pop stars, even minor pop stars, would have seemed like an unlikely path -- for Meisburg in particular -- but somehow they fell into the orbit of the cocaine-and-disco-fueled Casablanca label at the height of its cash-burning glory years, and someone at the label threw a bunch of money their way, backing them to tour college campuses and stadium shows, as well as an album that was as unlike typical Casablanca fare as you could possibly imagine. The duo gained some small notoriety for the single, "Graduation Day," an anti-feminist novelty number with just enough mild profanity (the phrase "son of a bitch") to get it mildly censored (a bleep on the LP version)... In the era of songs like "Junk Food Junkie" or "Werewolves Of London," it was plausible that these guys could have connected with a national audience, but somehow it never happened. After the Casablanca gig ended, they eventually called it quits, though Walters tried to launch a solo career in 1981. Meanwhile, Meisburg reentered civilian life, going into politics rather than back to the ministry, and at one point in the '80s was even the mayor of Tallahassee. after several years on the city council. So, how's that for a day job??
Meisburg & Walters "Just Like A Recurring Dream" (Casablanca Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Thomas Williams)
This is the album that includes "Graduation Day," with much of the rest of the album a collection of super-gentle folk-pop tunes, like a Simon & Garfunkel duo, but made up of John Denver and John Denver. Good for the style!
Meisburg & Walters "Love's An Easy Song" (Casablanca Records, 1977) (LP)
Gary Meister "Mainely Country" (Critique Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Strube & Jim Deans)
A local from Bangor, Maine, songwriter Gary Meister made a real go of it in the early 'Seventies, releasing singles on Laurie Records and BASF, in addition to at least one from this album. This disc is packed with original material: the band's pianist, Denny Bouchard, and backup singer Tom Gass contribute a couple of tunes -- "Take Me Back" and "Shufflin' Sam" -- while all but two of the rest of the songs are credited to Meister. As far as I can tell, the backing band were all locals, including Robbie Robichaud on bass, Tracy Bronson playing piano, Rick Hazeltine on lead guitar, drummer Brian Brown, backup singer Monica Harris and both Gary Meister and Julie Green playing rhythm guitar. The sessions were at the Rockland Recording Studio, a vigorous but obscure regional indie run by a guy named Jim Dean, in a home studio built in the back of an American Legion hall -- Dean seems to have had some kind of line into New York-based Laurie Records, as one of his rock bands also released a single there. His biggest coup, of course, was recording Dick Curless in the early 'Sixties, before he became a nationally-charting trucker-country icon. Anyway, this one's about as indie as they come!
Terry Melcher "Terry Melcher" (Reprise Records, 1974) (LP)
Okay, this isn't exactly what you'd call a "roots" or "Americana" album, but since revered superpickers like David Bromberg, Ry Cooder and Jay Dee Maness were part of the studio crew, and since the music itself has an odd, obliquely hinted-at twangitude, I figure it'll do. What this is, actually, is a fascinating and unique pop album from a remarkable show-biz insider. To begin with, Terry Melcher -- who passed away in November, '04 -- was Doris Day's son (and bore a striking resemblance to her...) which couldn't have hurt when he threaded his way through the thickets of the L.A. music machine... Melcher scored his first hits as a surf music songwriter, then landed a staff job as a producer at Columbia, where he helped mould the early sounds of the Byrds, among others. This is one of only two albums he recorded under his own name, and it's pretty interesting. Melcher's attentuated, half-whiny vocals bring to mind the likes of Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Colin Young, but his musical approach is much denser and more orchestral, making full use of the studio magic at his disposal. His warped reworking of roots music oldies like "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Stagger Lee," not to mention his bleak, opiated version of Jackson Browne's "These Days" all make this an album well worth tracking down. Recommended.
Terry Melcher "Royal Flush" (RCA Records, 1976)
(Produced by Bruce Johnson & Terry Melcher)
This moody, multilayered album is perhaps the perfect distillation of the Los Angeles pop/country-rock style, made by one of the city's cultural movers and shakers who most helped shape the sound he's satirizing so effectively here. It's a concept album of sorts, about cosmic-cowboy stoners going for a long lost weekend to party or perhaps sink themselves into oblivion in Mexico, which will forever be the cultural and historical mirror image and motherland of Anglo-dominated LA... There are a lot of songs that ring true here, perfectly capturing certain fragments of the Southern California mindset, particularly "Freeway Close" and "Rebecca," which define romance and reality in terms of traffic and roadways, the humorously cynical "High Rollers," which savagely lampoons the Top Forty-wannabees of the '70s country-rock scene, as well as the more sinister "Down In Mexico," which has a sludgy, swampy density that anticipates the Tom Waits of years to come. This isn't an easy album, but its self-indulgences seem purposeful and perceptive, with arrows that hit home more often than not. Plus, with musical contributions from folks like Red Rhodes, JD Maness, Van Dyke Parks (along with a large, more rock-oriented studio crew) there's some cool music behind the rather bleak, depressing lyrics. One wonders how much Melcher's brush with the Manson Family, years earlier, had to do with the darkness of his musical vision, and how much of it was just plain old show-biz cynicism. At any rate, this is a distinctive entry in the SoCal cowboy sound... definitely worth a spin!
The Memories "Fifth Anniversary Album" (Topeka Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by James Engandala & Warren L. Petryk)
Country covers by a trio from around Eau Claire, Wisconsin, including John Lynch on guitar, drummer Tim Stevens, and Warren Petryk on keyboards. Based on the album title, these guys seem to have formed their band around 1972, and were together at least into the early 1980s. A college student at the time this album was made, Mr. Petryk became a businessman and later went into politics, representing the state's 93rd assembly district since 2010. Although they also released a single or two, this seems to be the group's only full album. Partly recorded live at the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater in nearby Menomonie, this showcases a wide variety of influences, from a Sons Of The Pioneers medley and several Statler Brothers tunes to some country gospel at the end. Doesn't look like there was any original material, although there are two songs credited to Timothy B. Wright, of the Wright Brothers Overland Stage Company, a band from Indianapolis that The Memories admired and thank in their liner notes.
Memphis "Memphis" (Chumley Productions, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by John D. Loudermilk, Jr.)
This group's bandname was so generic, it's practically impossible to find out much about them online... I'll go out on a limb, though, and guess that the group's producer and rhythm guitarist, John D. Loudermilk, Jr., was related to songwriter John D. Loudermilk -- that's just a crazy, wild, random guess, though. Well, okay, so John D2 was indeed born to Nashville royalty, and worked for a while as a record producer, his name popping up in unusual places -- for example, working on one of Hazel Dickens albums -- and I guess this group was "his" band, although he just strums guitar and doesn't sing on any of the tracks, and wasn't a songwriter himself. The primary focus of the band seems to have been its four singers, Buck Buckles, Richard Lee, Billy Sea and Larry Strickland, who was the most famous of the four. In the '70s, Strickland was in the Stamps Quartet southern gospel group and as part of that group was in Elvis Presley's extended entourage, though his is probably best known now as the onetime husband of '80s country star Naomi Judd. This album includes songs by Nashville insiders like Max D. Barnes, but also a slew of tunes by more obscure composers. Not sure when it was made, but I'm guessing early to mid-'80s, from the looks of it -- apparently Naomi was dating Strickland before she formed the Judds, and used to hang out with the band.
Memphis "1983 Road Tour Album" (MPI Records, 1983) (LP)
A souvenir album for Larry Strickland's band, circa 1983, apparently with an all-new lineup, although still with an emphasis on vocal harmony. This edition of the group included lead singer Woodrow Wright, baritone Bob Fortner, tenor David Fonder, and Strickland filling in the bass part. The backup musicians also seem to be an all-new crew.
Dale Menten "I Really Wanted To Make A Movie" (MCA/Tally Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Menten)
The mid-'Seventies incarnation of the Merle Haggard-affiliated Tally label was a really odd project... Most of the Tally albums were clearly country-oriented, although this one is much more of a '70s soft-pop outing, with traces of Nilsson, Paul Simon and Graham Nash in its many piano-and-saxophone-strewn numbers. There is some country-rock twang in the mix as well, with Dick Strength providing subtle pedal steel on a tune or two... But really it's soft-rock fans who will want to check this one out. And, woah! It turns out I am familiar with Dale Menten's other work as well: as a kid he was in the Minnesota garage-pop band, The Gestures, whose single, "Run, Run, Run" is a longtime favorite of mine... I guess he also did some movie composing and jingle writing after this, as well as orchestrating the short-lived country-rock band Comfort Station, which put out one album in 1976.
Dale Menten & The Live Bait Band "Somethin' Fishy" (Weekend Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Menten & Dean Menten)
A genuinely odd and idiosnycratic album, with -- yes -- a bunch of songs about fishing and boating, which apparently became Mr. Menten's passion. The goofiness of it sort of automatically places this in the folkie/acoustic camp, though there is definitely some twang in the mix. Mr. Menten seems to have still been living up around the Great Lakes when he cut this album, and lined up a bunch of Twin Cities talent, including Cal Hand on dobro, Dick Hedlund on bass, drummers Peter Johnson and Gordy Knudtson, Lonnie Knight on guitar, Peter Oshtroushko playing fiddle and steel player Russ Pahl, all jamming together in a Minneapolis studio. In a weird way, the nearest comparison I could come up with is maybe with Jimmy Buffett's whole Hawaiian shirt parrothead schtick, but switching out a Pabst twelvepack for a bunch of umbrella drinks, and dozing off on a leaky old rowboat instead of a yacht. Time to get that pole in the water!
The Mercey Brothers - see artist discography
Marty Merchant & Country Joe Navarro "Heart Beat Country #3" (Fresville Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Marty Merchant)
A nice, earnest set of country covers from Fresno, California... According to the liner notes, these two were not normally a duo -- Joe Navarro asked Ms. Merchant to contribute a song to a movie he was making, and they later decided to record an album together. That song, "Ballad Of Joaquin Murietta," kicks the record off, and then they coast into a series of song swaps, each taking lead vocals on alternating tracks. Merchant had kind of an underlying pop-vocals style, with hints of Doris Day and Patsy Cline in her phrasing and tone, while Navarro was an unabashed fan of Freddy Fender's chicano country style. Neither one was going to take Nashville by storm, but they do okay and the backing musicians -- sadly uncredited -- were pretty good, particularly the pedal steel player. The Fresville label was owned by Marty Merchant -- she released at least two other albums under that name, and lived in Fresno for many years after, before retiring to North Carolina. Joe Navarro, who had been in Fresno's late-1960s, latino garage-rock band called The Misfits, also released a couple of country singles under his own name, on the Fresno-based California Artists Corporation. He died pretty young, though, in 1988, while still in his forties.
Marty Merchant "#10 N Country" (Fresville Records, 1980) (LP)
Marty Merchant "Christmas Country Style" (Fresville Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Ruff & Randy Nicklaus)
Ho-ho-ho! I'm not exactly sure when this one came out, but since it includes the novelty number, "ET's Helping Santa," I'd say it was sometime after the summer of 1982... Ms. Merchant seems to have gone to LA to record this one, working at the Oak Records studio of producer Ray Ruff. The studio band included Al Bruno on guitar, Jerry Cole playing bass, Brad Felton playing pedal steel, John Mauceri on drums, and perhaps most intriguing, vocals by top forty back-bencher (and Ray Ruff's wife) Stephanie Winslow, whose own career was peaking at the time. Apparently this album also came with a bonus 7" single -- and, yeah, she recycled the same cover photo from her previous LP. Why not?
Buddy Meredith "Sing Me A Heart Song" (Starday Records, 1963-?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Hill)
A Navy veteran from Rapid City, South Dakota, Buddy Meredith threw himself into a country music career after he got his walking papers... He worked in radio as a deejay on KRSD, Rapid City, and also had a weekly gig on TV station KOTA, Iowa City. After cracking into the Billboard country charts in 1962, with the song "I May Fall Again," Meredith recorded a string of singles, including a few for Starday Records, and several more for Bobby G. Rice's indie label, Rice Records. This LP may have been his only full-length album; the liner notes by Don Pierce provide a brief snapshot of Meredith's career up until '63, although he continued to record until the end of the decade, and even made a go of it in Nashville for a while. This disc includes three songs written by Meredith, along with Lowell Sterling, a longtime member of Meredith's band, the Dakota Cowboys. Although he lived and worked in many places, he's primarily remembered as a South Dakota musicians, and in 2008 was inducted into the state's Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tee Meroney "25 Years In Country Music" (Kash Records, 1993) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Ulsh)
A teen twang prodigy, Tee Meroney played on WRVA's Old Dominion Barn Dance and went on to work with various country and bluegrass bands, most notably for Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens. In the early '70s he moved to Virginia Beach to start a gig leading the house band for a club called Nashville East, and remained there for nearly two decades. This album looks back at his career, or at least at some of his favorite songs from over the decades. He's backed here by steel guitarist Kenny Dail, Pete Harris on acoustic guitar, Garland Abbott on bass, Hurley Moncus on fiddle, and drummer Normand Jerald. Among the covers is an original cowritten by Meroney, "No Place I'd Rather Be," and one called "North Carolinian." by Jim Lunsford.
Les Merrill "Lonesome Trail" (Accent Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Merrill)
A latter-day recording by Les Merrill, father of guitar whiz Buddy Merrill, who was (among other things) known for his decades-long tenure on The Lawrence Welk Show. The elder Mr. Merrill had his own country band, the Fremont River Rangers, which played regionally in Utah and the mountain states way back in the 1940s. The band was Buddy Merrill's introduction to show business and this album is kind of a love letter to those good old days. It's also a nice showcase for Les Merrill as a songwriter: he wrote all the songs on the album, including "I'd Like To Tell You," "Have I Come Back Too Late" and "Thy Will Be Done," and the title track, "Lonesome Trail." And of course, there's some nice picking on here as well!
Mesa "Here To Stay" (Gizmo Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Tom D. Atkins)
Novelty-oriented honky-tonk from Fort Worth, Texas... Original songs by Tom D. Atkins and Clark Reynolds, including songs such as "Asphalt Cowboy," "Condo In Paradise" and "I Hate To Shave."
Ron Mesing "Saturday Night/Sunday Morning" (Country Boy Records, 1975) (LP)
The first of a handful of solo records by Pennsylvania-based dobro player Ron Mesing, a picker from the same generation of "progressive" bluegrassers such as Jerry Douglas who helped expand the range and direction of the instrument. Like Douglas, Mesing introduced jazz themes and new source material into his albums, adding to the country and mountain-music repertoire with which it was historically linked. Mesing never achieved the same level of recognition as some of his peers, though he did record several well-regarded albums.
Ron Mesing "No Minors Allowed" (Flying Fish, 1978) (LP)
Ron Mesing "Just Messing Around" (Rosewood Records, 19--?) (LP)
Roger Messingham "Restless" (Roger Messingham Productions, 1973-?) (LP)
At the time he recorded this album Roger Messingham was the owner of a nightclub in Cedar Falls, Iowa called Messingham's Second Base... I'm not sure when or how long the club was open but it was mentioned in a local newspaper in 1972, which is about when I'd guess this album came out. Messingham covers some top-country hits of the era, tunes like "Shade Tree Fix It Man," "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues," "Games People Play," and "You Don't Have Very Far To Go," as well as (I think) a couple of originals, such as "Restless" and "If You Leave Me Tonight, I Think I'll Cry." Messingham was not a great singer, but he chugged along on in a workmanlike fashion, doing his best to channel Elvis Presley and Charlie Rich, with kind of marginal results. He was backed by the club's house band, the Art Essery Show, which had its own odd spin on the material, trying to replicate the sophisticated "sunshine pop" arrangements you'd hear on the radio at the time, and perhaps struggling a bit against their own ambitions. But don't get me wrong -- I like this record. It's not really that good, but I still find it charming and sincere... Messingham seems to have moved to Tennessee a few years later, though I don't know if he continued playing music there or not.
Bud Messner & His Skyliners "Slipping Around With Jole Blon" (Cattle Records, 1983) (LP)
A veteran of the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, Bud Messner was born in Virginia but grew up in Hagerstown, Maryland. During the late 1940s and early '50s, he led a regional band that included his wife, Molly Darr, along with several other artists who perform on this album. The disc is a collection of a dozen tracks that draws on several singles that originally came out on the Abbey and Spear labels, as well as a couple of unreleased tapes. Included are duets with Molly Darr, as well as tracks with lead vocals by Don Adams, Bill Franklin and Slim Roberts. Messner quit performing in 1955, but later got into radio broadcasting. In 1960, he purchased WCBG in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and established it as an influential country music station. Messner seems to have been in the orbit of regional country music promoter Howard Vokes, who licensed a bunch of stuff to Cattle Records in the 1980s -- Vokes contributed liner notes to this album, and probably owned the tracks on this album.
Bud Messner "Bud Messner's Country And Mountain Church Favorites" (Spear International Records, 1965-?) (LP)
Vintage recordings from his work on the Spear label. There's a lot of overlap between this disc and the Cattle Records LP that came out in the '80s, with many of the same artists involved -- Messner, Molly Darr, Don Adams, Bill Franklin, Alan Roberts and Slim Roberts. Four tracks on this disc were not included on the later LP, in favor of others.
Bud Messner & Roy Ingram "It's Country Time" (Robud Records, 19--?) (LP)
Not a lot of info on this one, though it seems to have been a "comeback" album for Mr. Messner, probably recorded in the 1970s. Fiddler Ray Ingram was a member of Messner's old band The Skyliners and later worked as general manager at Messner's Pennsylvania radio station. They opened a talent agency together, which Ingram eventually took over and was running in the early 'Seventies when he was profiled in a local newspaper. Ingram is probably the same guy who played fiddle for a New York state folk-country duo called The Plainfolk, who released an early 'Seventies album on a label from Virginia, though I don't know how many other records he played on.
Paul Metcalf "Country Music Comin' Back" (Belmont, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Gold)
Roger Mews "...Sings Leavin' Town And Other Favorites" (LP)
A rootsy rockabilly/hick artist from Minnesota, Roger Mews cut several singles and at least one album... Not sure of the date on this one, but it looks mid-to-late 1960s, perhaps... Mews seems to have had a connection to South Dakota country bandleader Sherwood Linton -- he recorded some of his music, and possibly played in his band. (Anyone have more info about their relationship?) Anyway, some roots old stuff from the Great Lakes country scene of years gone by...
Liz Meyer "Once A Day" (Adelphi Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Liz Meyer & Obie O'Brien)
This one's a find! Liz Meyer was part of the same Washington, DC folk/roots/country scene as Emmylou Harris and Bill & Taffy Danoff, and this album, which gathers recordings she made between 1975-77, is a testament to the vitality of that scene. It's also a pretty gritty, downright cool hard-country album, with a nice mix of covers and originals. She sings two Buck Owens songs, one by Hank Junior, and an earthy, rough-hewn rendition of Bill Anderson's "Once A Day." The most striking thing about Meyer is her tough, robust sound, both her affinity for true twang and her husky, throaty vocals, a tough-sounding voice that reminds me quite a bit of honkytonk heroine Melba Montgomery. More than half of the songs on here are Meyer's originals, including heartsong gems such as "I Don't Know How To Say Goodbye" and "Someone You Can't Love," which is perhaps the album highlight. Obviously it took Meyer a long time to get this record out, and she must have sat on these tapes for a while before assembling them into an album. The production is a little rough and so are some of the performances, but they are an excellent snapshot of the scene she was in, and among the guest musicians are Emmylou Harris herself singing backup on four of the songs, and superpicker Mike Auldridge playing dobro on two tracks, and Buddy Carlton on pedal steel. Meyer moved to Europe in the 1980s and went on to record several albums, many with a bluegrass bent, and had several of her songs recorded by artists such as Laurie Lewis, Del McCoury, and the great Emmylou herself. Meyer passed away in 2011, after a long struggle with bone cancer, but she certainly left a great musical legacy behind, starting with this album of excellent early work.
Augie Meyers - see artist discography
Clyde Meyers "Clyde Meyers" (Justice Recording Company, 1966--?) (LP)
An ultra-obscuro disc, pressed in the mid-1960s by a short-lived custom label from Winston, Salem, North Carolina. The Justice company mostly recorded local garage rockers, but in this case the music was definitely country, including tracks such as Terry Fell's trucker classic, "Truck Driving Man," "I Just Came To Smell The Flowers" (which was a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1966), Bill Anderson's "Bright Lights And Country Music," and "Under Your Spell Again," from the Buck Owens songbook. This one's a real mystery disc, brought to light by an eBay auction of a copy that was offered without any LP jacket... additional info is always welcome!
Gene Meyers "Country Vibes" (Stoneway Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by R. M. Stone)
A multi-instrumentalist who specialized in the vibraphone, Gene Meyers was a Houston local who worked in the oil industry and cut a few records on the side, also doing some session work for the tight-knit Stoneway label. This is his most solidly country-based album, with covers of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," "Making Believe," and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," though also an eclectic assortment of standards and chestnuts such as "Summertime," "Suwannee River," and "I Walk Alone."
Gene Meyers "Vibes For Everybody" (Stoneway Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by R. M. Stone)
Another eclectic set, with some country and country-adjacent material, but also a preponderance of chestnuts from the Victrola era, which is kind of neat.
Gene Meyers "Mostly Gene" (Stoneway Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by R. M. Stone)
Meyers plays multiple instruments on this album, including "Hawaiian" (steel) guitar; the only other musicians on the sessions were bassist Buck Henson and drummer Joe Watson.
Danny Michaels & His Rebel Playboys "On The Bandstand" (Chambers/Vistone Records, 1965-?) (LP)
A fairly schmaltzy vocalist who was big on the Southern California country scene in the early 1960s... According to the liner notes, singer-guitarist Danny Michaels grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and was a child star starting at age five; he performed on the Jesse Rogers show on radio station WHB. At some point he moved out west and led his band, the Rebel Playboys, as the house band at a club called George's Roundup, in Long Beach, which is where this (apparently) live album was recorded. Michaels covers country oldies such as "This Cold War With You" as well as some pop stuff and several instrumentals. Perhaps most notable are two songs that were released in studio versions as a single, "Bourbon Street" and the super-bouncy, Bakersfield-influenced "Super Pain," which was an amazing 7" single, but a little less punchy in this live version. Likewise, his cover of Ray Charles' "What I Say" doesn't quite bring the house down, but you get where he was headed. I can't say as a twangfan I was really wowed by this LP, though it has a certain authenticity that's kind of groovy, even if Michaels seems more like a surf-adjacent go-go club popster at times. It's mostly the lackadaisical vocals that put me off, although apparently he was a hotshot picker, with a custom-made double-neck guitar, ala Joe Maphis and Larry Collins. Michaels and his band were pretty popular around LA and environs -- in addition to the gig at George's -- which was simulcast on radio station KFOX -- they frequently appeared on KTLA-TV's country show, Cal's Corral, a long-running program hosted by car salesman Cal Worthington. The version of the band backing him on this album included Ron Kent on bass, drummer Billy Jay Nixon, and steel player Jimmy Stevens, along with guest musicians Al Brown, Jack Downes, Clyde Griffin and Joe Pope. Also: dig club owner George Underwood's gold-plated Lincoln Continental and Harley hog pictured on the front cover of the album: eat yer heart out, Webb Pierce!
Danny Michaels & His Rebel Playboys "Goes Middle Country" (Vistone Records, 19--?) (LP)
This late-1960s set features self-described "Mr. Versatility" Danny Michaels on a badass double-necked guitar, playing a bunch of covers of hits such as "Little Green Apples," "Harper Valley PTA," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Classical Gas."
Danny Michaels & His Rebel Playboys "Big Time Operator" (Redwood Records, 19--)
Danny Michaels "...Sings Goin' Home" (Shasta Records, 197--?) (LP)
According to the liner notes by label owner Jimmy Wakely, singer Danny Michaels had been playing the same gig in Southern California for the last thirteen years by the time he cut this record, leading the Rebel Playboys band at a supper club called George's Roundup, in Long Beach, California. Michaels also apparently worked as the club's co-manager, and was pretty well known on the SoCal country scene. Superpicker James Burton plays on this disc -- at least on the title track, "Goin' Home," which was a newly-written original credited to Wakely. Other tracks include covers of classics such as "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," "Cryin' Time," "Kawliga," "Statue Of A Fool," and of course, the inevitable cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee." Sadly, no info on who else might have been on this album.
Paul Midas Show "Held Over" (Tribal Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Stephens & Dan Breeden)
Half of this album was recorded at the fabled Ripcord studios in Washington state, with vocals by Mr. Midas who was presumably a local, billed as "...a full-blooded Yakima Indian... and proud of it!" There are a bunch of classic country covers and a couple of rock oldies, including a version of "Proud Mary," as well as one original song, "Just Loving You," written by producer/guitarist Ron Stephens.
The Middle Of It All "Working Day Woman" (19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Soren Bredsdorff)
A quintessential custom-pressing lounge band album, featuring the trio of Jimmy Owens (guitar), drummer Dennis Roe and bassist Donna Roe, with backing by a small studio crew that included piano, guitar and horns. It was the presence of trombones, trumpet and flugelhorn that made me fearful, but they are buried pretty far back in the mix, and to the extent they factor in at all, it's in service of the group trying to tap into an eclectic late-'Sixties Dusty Springfield/Bobbie Gentry vibe on the tracks where Ms. Roe sings lead. It's mostly if not all cover songs, stuff like "Ode To Billy Joe," Chokin' Kind," "Country Boy" and a particularly sluggish rendition of "You Gave Me A Mountain." None of the performances really snap or sparkle, but they all have an authentic, still-an-amateur-band feel. Not sure where these folks were from (or how they picked their goofy band name) but the sessions were recorded in Denver, Colorado for Fred Arthur Productions, a firm best known for its work writing and production radio jingles and TV ads for local and national markets.
Midnight Cowboys "Drinkin' And Thinkin' " (Pond Creek Publishing Co.) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Casolari)
Randy Wilson and the Midnight Cowboys hailed from Golden Gate, Illinois... This album is of all original material, with all the songs written or cowritten by Mark Chapman, who interestingly enough was not one of the musicians in the band. Includes songs such as "Nashville Fever," "That One Country Song" and "Ain't No Drunks In Heaven."
Midnight Express "In Session" (MBS Records, 1978) (LP)
Midnight Flyer "First Flight" (Air Midwest Rescue Music, 1980) (LP)
This was a country-rock band from the Kansas/Missouri axis, apparently from out int he hinterlands of Hays, Kansas and nearby Salina, north of Wichita. There's not a lot of info about these guys online, but I'm all ears if you know more than me...
Midnight Flyer "A Quart Short & Three Bricks Shy" (Air Midwest Rescue Music, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Meckel & Jack Trice)
On their second album, the band included Jack Trice on lead guitar and vocals, drummer Dean Kranzler, bassist Leon Holl, and Paul Draper on keyboards. Though not listed as an official member of the band, John Briggs adds pedal steel and harmonica on several tracks. All the songs on here were written by Trice, except for "The Outside Man," which was written by bass player Leon Holl, and features him singing lead.
Midwest Railway Company "Country Style" (Austin Entertainment Enterprises, Inc., 1983) (LP)
A very-indie twangband from Austin, Texas with a brace of original material by Debi Francis, Len Francis, and Jim Hall, as well as a cover tune or two, including Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe" and John Fogerty's "Proud Mary." I wasn't able to find any info about these folks online, alas.
Midnite Special "Midnite Special" (Cookhouse Records, 1975-?) (LP)
Midnite Special & Joanie Lynn "Let's Have A Party" (Cookhouse/Midnight Special Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Dik Hedlund & Midnight Special)
Although a couple of years or more may separate these two albums, I'm pretty sure this was the same band, recording at the Minneapolis indie studio, Cookhouse. Midnite Special was a rural Minnesota band made up of Tom Ginkel (steel guitar), Joanie Lynn (guitar and vocals), Gary Mons (banjo), John Mons (bass), and Randy Moffat on drums. Much of the focus seems to have been on vocalist Joanie Lynn, with a repertoire heavy on gal-oriented country covers (including "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Jackson," "Wanda Jackson's "Let's Have A Party," and "Walking After Midnight") as well as some pop and rock ("As Tears Go By," "Surfin' Bird"). These guys were a real-deal, hard-working regional band... On the back cover they thank dozens of bars, ballrooms and lounges they played at, mostly in small towns in the southern end of the state radiating around Minneapolis, Minnesota hamlets such as Austin, Glencoe, New Ulm and Sunburg. The Mons brothers were from Hutchinson, MN, a tiny place just west of Minnetonka and they played in a series of bands, both before and after this one. Tom Ginkel also moved through a series of bands, notably the early 'Seventies rock group Clover, a regional powerhouse in the early 'Seventies, and gradually moved into country music; he was connected with John Volinkaty, a local songwriter who scored a huge country hit with the song "Satin Sheets," and played on Volinkaty's 1976 solo album. Tom Ginkel and John Mons also formed a country-rock band called Prairie Rose and were still working together in the 2010s in a group called Old Gold; John Mons and Joanie Lynn also recorded at lest one single together, as a duo -- other than that, not much info about her.
Albert Mikesh "Country-Western Hits" (Kay Banks Records., 196--?) (LP)
A bandleader from Lidgerwood, North Dakota, Albert Mikesh comes from the territories where "old time music" often means polka tunes, rather than bluegrass-y stuff... But I gotta say, this actually ain't a bad record. Mikesh, who played accordion, cordovox and guitar, had a pretty modest voice and wasn't a dazzling performer overall, but a lot of that may be ascribed to Midwestern understatement. He certainly seems to have a genuine feel for country material -- this isn't an outsiders-looking-in kind of album, and it's fairly pleasant to listen to. In addition to covers of chestnuts such as "Blue, Blue Day," "He'll Have To Go," "Hey Good Lookin'," and "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On," he covers a few more obscure tunes, and does a bang-up job on "Auctioneer." There are a couple of Mikesh originals, "Every Night At Nine" and "Pepperoni," and apparently there was a single released concurrently that had a couple of other Mikesh original, sadly not included here. More than anything else, I love the liner notes, which include the following: "He has received a citation from the National Ballroom Operators Association for four consecutive years for having a band of neat appearance, providing a wholesome form of entertainment and top quality danceable music." Can't ask much more than that!
Albert Mikesh "Just A Fiddlin' And A Pickin' " (M Records., 196--?) (LP)
Somewhere along the line, Mikesh seems to have taken up the fiddle, and here plays a pretty solid set of traditional fiddle tunes, stuff like "Cripple Creek," "Flop-Eared Mule" and "Orange Blossom Special." Not sure when this came out, but it looks late 'Seventies, early 'Eighties.
Shirl Milete "Shirl Milete" (Poppy Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Lamar Fike & Jim Molloy)
Songwriter Shirl Milete (1933-2006) had a brief fling in the spotlight, doing some session work as a guitarist for RCA in the mid-1960s before recording his one solo album and a short string of singles, which petered out around 1973. He was a prolific composer, though, and his main claim to fame is that Elvis Presley recorded three of his songs, "It's Your Baby, You Rock It," "My Little Friend," and the dreadful cosmic gospel-meets-countrypolitan ballad, "Life," which is included here in its original version. Milete seems to have been aiming for the same sort of stilted, roots-poet profundity that folks like Roger Miller and Tom T. Hall were exploring around the time -- one could say it's an acquired taste, but fans of the style may want to track this disc down. Biographical info about Mr. Milete is just about as sparse as his discography: I still haven't figured out where he was from, though he was living in Tennessee when he passed away. Apparently he had some continued success as a songwriter even after he quit making records himself; Bobby Bare, Dolly Parton, Vern Gosdin, and Hank Williams, Jr., among others, recorded some of his stuff later in the '70s.
Miller & Riley "Miller & Riley" (Sweetland Productions, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Danny Miller & Mike Riley)
Hippie-ish country-rock from the Oklahoma City duo of Danny Miller and Mike Riley... The songs are all originals except for covers of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and Tom T. Hall's "Tulsa Telephone Book."
Bob Miller "Jeanie, I'm Coming Home" (Blackbird Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Massey)
A honkytonker from Dallas, Texas with four of his own original songs: "Jeanie, I'm Coming Home" and "Jealous Kind" (which were also released as a single), "Black Mark On My Name" and "Loneliest Star," as well as two that were penned by Texas fiddler Frank Zaruba: "Soap Box" and "Molly Come Go With Me." He also covers Harlan Howard, Merle Haggard, Hank Cochran and Kris Kristofferson, to give you a sense of where he was coming from.
The Miller Brothers "Louisville" (Westwood Recordings, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by David Whiteley)
Near as I can figure, there was only one actual Miller in this UK country band, lead singer Eddie Miller, who also played guitar and mandolin. He's accompanied by lead guitarist Eric Holden, and Jimmy Ryan on bass, and it seems to be just the three of them playing a stripped-down set of standard country fare. There are several Merle Haggard songs, a couple by Kris Kristofferson, a version of "Country Roads," and one by Harlan Howard. Two songs might be originals, the title track, "Louisville," and one called "She's Mine." Apparently they were from Liverpool and performed at a venue called the Whitchurch Country Music Club.
The Miller Brothers Band "Mixing It Up" (Gabe's Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Hill & The Mike Stone)
Not a lot of info about these folks, other than the record itself. The brothers in question were Charley Miller (lead guitar) and Ron Miller (bass), with accompaniment by Mark Bright (steel guitar), Scott Cash (piano), Ron Fischer (drums), John Hodges (drums and harmonica) and vocalist Dianna Trolley. The album was recorded in Nashville, with a repertoire that includes covers of Charlie Daniels' "Long Haired Country Boy" and a Dave Kirby tune, "You Wouldn't Know Love." Dianna Trolley sings lead on her own original song, "I've Just Gotta Have You" -- no info on her, either, alas.
The Miller Brothers Band "Here's To The Women" (No Bull, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Wiggins & The Miller Brothers)
These fellas are different from the other two Miller Brothers bands listed above... Jeffrey Allen Miller and Lowell Thomas Miller were originally from Burrville, Tennessee but moved to California, where they played gigs in the early '80s in the San Francisco Bay Area. This album, which is packed with original material, came out on a label from San Rafael, CA.
Carl Miller & The Playboys "I Walk The Line And Other Dobro Guitar Favorites" (Crown Records) (LP)
Another budget-label mystery disc... One assumes Carl Miller was a session player for the notoriously fly-by-night Crown label, but like many of those musicians, information is scarce. I'll keep you posted.
Dale Miller "The Country Singer" (Noma Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
This album, recorded at the fabled Ripcord studios but released on an Ohio label, features some of the most awesome liner notes ever, in which Clarkfork, Idaho's middle-aged Dale Miller goes into great detail about his receding hairline, his hernia, what he likes to eat for dinner, what states and countries he's traveled to, and various aspects of his marriage... They are the most guileless and earnest liners I've ever seen... very endearing. Wish I'd been able to buy a copy when I saw this one, 'cause I'd really love to hear the music, too.
Dale Miller "...Discovers Potter County, USA" (Jewel Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York)
Darnell Miller "The Country Sounds Of..." (Deneba Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Danny Harrison & Michael Perry)
Raw, twangy, rockabilly-tinged honkytonk tunes from an earthy, rough-edged Virginian who was a regular on the WWVA Jamboree at the time he cut this disc. It's really great stuff -- pure hard country on an album packed with original material and great performances by a Nashville studio crew cut loose and allowed to play some real true twang. Fred Carter, Jr., in particular, lays down some blistering riffs, matching Miller's resolutely rural style.
Junne Miller "Foolin' My Heart" (Quintet Recording Company, 19--?) (LP)
Best known as a rockabilly-adjacent hillbilly singer, Joseph ("Junne") Miller's cut a single in 1960 called "How Bad Can Bad Luck Be" that had a rumbling, Johnny Cash-meets-Moon Mullican feel, and has been anthologized on numerous retro collections. Miller is an elusive figure, but seems to have been from Winston-Salem, South Carolina, or thereabouts. Although "Bad Luck" sure sounds country to my ears, Miller wrote it in 1957, when he was part of a package tour called "Kelly Sears College Of Rock And Roll," where he got top billing. He is mentioned in the obituary of a relative, having predeceased them sometime before December, 2018, but no info on Miller himself. This LP is equally obscure -- I've only seen it offered for sale once -- and seems to be Miller's only other record, outside of the "Bad Luck" single.
Mary K. Miller "Mary K. Miller" (Inergi Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Vincent D. Kickerillo, Don Costa, Ron Reynolds & Joe Robb)
Mary K. Miller "Handcuffed To A Heartache" (Inergi Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Vincent D. Kickerillo, Jerry Barnes & Charlie Tallent)
Independent country music from Texas, from a gal who had recorded in the early 'Seventies as Mary Miller, and who released a long string of singles on the Houston-based Inergi label. Inergi Records was a side project of her husband, Vincent D. Kickerillo, a prosperous real estate developer and banker who bought over twenty thousand lots and built nearly as many houses over the course of several decades. Most of the Inergi releases were by Mary K. Miller with a couple of singles by other local singers, as well as a highly sought-after "solo" album by the TCB Band -- James Burton, Emory Gordy (bass and guitar), Glen D. Hardin (piano), Jerry Scheff (bass) and Ronnie Tutt on drums -- who had been Elvis Presley's backing group and later formed the core of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band. This disc seems to have been recorded in separate sessions in Nashville and Hollywood, with Tallent and Barnes as the respective engineers, and features a lot of original songs, presumably provided by aspiring Houston locals. Mrs. Kickerillo also recorded under her married name, including a 1986 pop album that featured three duets with Paul Anka. The TCB Band also cut a full album for the Inergi label, presumably at the same time as this one, though apparently it was never officially released and became a sort of collector-nerd holy grail for Elvis fans.
Pamela Miller "Throw A Little Love My Way" (Tower Records, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Miller)
The debut album by the daughter of hillbilly star Eddie Miller, who produced this album... The liner notes say she was thirteen years old when this came out, although some tracks were recycled from earlier sessions, including "Arms Full Of Me," which came out as a single in 1965. About half the songs were written by Mr. Miller with additional tunes from Terry Fell, Glen Garrison, Billy Smith and Cindy Walker. No info, alas, on who was backing her, though it's probably a safe bet one of the musicians was her dad. Most of the tracks were also released as singles, but nothing seems to have gained much traction.
Pam Miller "My Mama's Songs" (Skylite Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Miller)
After her big debut on Tower Records, Pamela Miller kicked around Nashville for several years, releasing a handful of singles on various labels, though again, with not much action on the charts. Finally, in 1976, she shifted gears and started recording gospel music, releasing several albums over the course of the next decade or so... This was her first album for the Skylite label, again produced by her dad, though this time repertoire was all songs that were composed by her mother, Barbara Miller.
Ross Miller "No Such Thing As Good Bye" (Mountain Meadow Studios, 19--?) (LP)
A super-DIY-looking album, with all the songs (I think) written by Ross Miller, with two tracks co-written by Mike Faubion... Presumably he was from Idaho, since there's a tune on here called "Idaho Song." No mention on the album of where this was recorded or when it came out.
Ted Miller "...And Those Rodeo Cowboys" (Country Style Records And Tapes, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Engel)
An affable Canadian honkytonker from Calgary, Alberta... Includes songs such as "Rodeo Cowboys," "Fool On The Run" and "Cowboy's Funeral."
Vern Miller & The Versatiles "Some Old - Some New" (LeVern Records, 19--?) (LP)
Oldies-rock and country twang by a local-only band from Riverside, Iowa. The group included Miller on lead vocals, Jim Brown (bass), Don Fiebelkorn (drums), Norman Kannenberg (guitar) and Gary Fairbanks on steel. There are lots of cover tunes, stuff like "Johnny B. Good," "Stagger Lee," "Red Sails In The Sunset" and "Swingin' Doors," as well as two originals: "Always The First Love," written by Vern Miller, and "Is It True" by Bob Green. Not sure when this one came out, but the early 1970s is a pretty good bet... Also, I'm pretty sure this guy wasn't related to the Vern Miller who was the attorney general for the state of Kansas, or to Vern Miller, Jr., from the Remains... But then again, who knows?
Will Miller "It's Miller Time" (Century Gold Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Glenn Barber & Cliff Eldridge)
An all-originals country set, with a studio crew that includes Mark Casstevens, Fred Newell on guitars... I couldn't track down any info about this one, though, like where this guy was from, etc. Oh, well.
Chuck Millhuff "...In Nashville" (Proclaim Records, 19--?) (LP)
A Kansas City-area Christian pastor, singer Chuck Millhuff led a successful ministry in the KC suburb of Olathe, Kansas, and continued evangelizing well into the 21st Century. He was firmly entrenched in the Southern Gospel scene, seen here by liner note testimonials by Bill Gaither and Brock Speer, as well as the inclusion of several songs co-written by Gaither and Milhuff. For this disc he made a pilgrimage to Music City and adds distinctly Nashville-ian production to his message, in this case a 'Sixties-era pop-vocal sound that shows the influence of crooner Jim Reeves and spotlights Anita Kerr-esque backing vocals. (Indeed, although no studio musicians are listed by name, I would guess that the female chorus actually was the Kerr crew, though I can't say for sure.) Several tracks open with robust flourishes of life, though most lapse into a more sedate feel... Overall, though, this religious set does deliver on its promise of a country touch, and is worth checking out if you enjoy hearing where these two styles meet.
Chuck Millhuff "Feelin' Country Good" (A+R Records, 19--?) (LP)
Early '70s Christian music with surprisingly robust country arrangements, including Christian folk star Phil Keaggy playing guitar. Milhuff was not a great singer, but this is a legitimately twangy record, with some nice pickin' on it, and a more laid-back, down-home feel than his other albums. Worth a spin!
Bunnie Mills "Only A Woman" (Sagittar Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Kettar)
Bunnie Mills "...Sings Country From The Heart" (Bunjak Records, 1987) (LP)
Occasionally I come across some weird background stories with the indie artists in these old albums, and I have to wrestle with whether a drug conviction or whatever really has that much to do with the artist or, more importantly, with their art. In the case of singer-songwriter Lillian ''Bunnie'' Mills, the weird story is so overpowering, I have to say, yeah, this is a big part of her life story. Apparently Ms. Mills was a relatively well-known country singer from Bossier City, Louisiana (near Shreveport) and at some point in her 50s she met a man twenty years younger than herself who she started going out with. Tragically, this guy turned out to be a particularly sadistic serial killer, nicknamed "the Gainsville Ripper," who brutally murdered at least seven people in Louisiana and Florida before being caught. Following his arrest in 1991, Mills was called upon to testify at his trial... She had nothing to do with the crimes, but had tried, along with the man's mother, to persuade him to seek help for mental health issues that became apparent in the late '80s. So, did this gruesome case have anything to do with Bunnie Mills' music? No, not really, but it is remarkable that even after her involvement in such a horrible and highly public crime, Mills was able to pick herself up and keep going with her music career. In addition to recording three albums, she also started her own label(s) -- Pot 'O' Gold and Greenback Records -- and worked as a producer of several aspiring young country singers. Still... yeesh. How creepy!
Bunnie Mills "A Simple Country Girl" (Bunjak Records, 1999)
Bunnie Mills "Foggy River" (Greenback Records, 2000)
Unfortunately this this disc doesn't include her political single, "Who Is Our President?" which was written after the 2000 elections...
Monte Mills "Sings Old Favorites" (Horseshoe Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Mooney)
Monte Mills "Second Album" (Horseshoe Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Sutton)
Monte Mills "Steam And Steel" (Lucky Horseshoe, 19--?) (LP)
Woody Mills & Funky Country "Funky Country" (M&W Records, 1972-?)
Your guess is as good as mine, though I gotta say, this is a pretty fun record. On the cover, it just says "Funky Country," although on the inner label it reads "Woody Mills and Funky Country." Other than that, this one's pretty much a mystery record, with no credits or liner notes to speak of, other than the names of the band's solo vocalists written next to the song titles. In addition to Mills singing lead on three songs, there are Billy Long, Chuck Long, Jerry Patrick and the band's "girl" singer, Del-C-Duncan, who delivers nice earthy versions of "You Ain't Woman Enough To Steal My Man" and "Hurtin' All Over." While the country influence is real and convincing (their raggedy version of "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name" is a real hoot) the band also has a strong current of rugged, whiteboy garage-R&B, as heard on their versions of "Sea Cruise," "Walk A Mile" and "It Came Outta The Sky." I'm guessing at the release date based on the matrix number inscribed on the deadwax -- 27035 -- and have a theory that the Long brothers may have been from northeastern Ohio, though again this is mostly guesswork. Anyone with more solid info about this band, I'm all ears.
Milwaukee Iron "Milwaukee Iron" (Sutton Studios, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Sutton)
This motorcycle-oriented twangband was from Shell Beach, California, near Atascadero -- a favorite haunt of West Coast bikers. They wrote a bunch of party-hardy vroom-vroom tunes for this album, including "Get Down Biker Music," "If I've Ever Seen A Biker He Is I," "Harley Song," "Cheesy Rider" and the somewhat less-charmingly titled "Jerk Me Off." The main talents in the group were multi-instrumentalist Peter Morin (who played lead guitar, pedal steel, banjo, mandolin and slide) and the singer and main songwriter who was identified only as Rogene, and who I guess is the gal pictured on the cover with her hog up on an oceanside bluff, as well as rhythm guitarist John Bushnell, who also sings lead on the few tunes.
Artie Minz & Ellie Shepherd "...And The Countrymen" (Lewein Recording Company, 19--?) (LP)
A Wisconsin native who is said to have formed the first country band in Washington County, Arthur "Artie" Minz (1925-1998) led his band The Countrymen for over fifty years, playing in and around the Milwaukee area. He worked a day job as a teamster, driving trucks for a local concrete manufacturer until he retired in the early '80s. His partner on this album, Ellie May Shepard aka Elenora Roos (1936-2014) was a machinist and union shop steward who also performed locally, recording a few singles with Minz, as well as an album of her own. This disc includes a wealth of original material, as well as covers of country classics such as "Detour" and "Why Baby Why" -- the song "Just Another Name" also came out as a single on the Cuca label, though I don't know if Minz and Shepard re-recorded it, or used the same session for both releases. As far as I know, this was Mr. Minz's only LP release.
Mirinda "Mirinda" (National Foundation Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Dollar, Jack Logan & Bill Vorndick)
Ten-year old Mirinda (no last name given; kind of a Cher/Prince thing, I guess...) was from upstate New York, and she must have had some fierce stage parents behind her, because prior to recording this album she had already won an award at the Colorado Country Music Convention, and earlier on had auditioned and was a finalist for a role in the Broadway production of "Annie." Her folks also took her down to Nashville, where she recorded this set with a studio crew that included A-list musicians such as Mark Casstevens, Tony Migliore and Weldon Myrick. It looks like this was some kind of song poem/demo album, with a bunch of material from mostly-unknown composers -- there's one song called "Hank The Opry Mouse" which was written by '60s singer Hugh X. Lewis, but other than that, this is strictly obscurosville.
Mirror Image "Sounds Like The Eagles" (Pickwick Records, 1979) (LP)
One of many semi-fictional, studio-only, faux bands created by the Pickwick budget label, Mirror Image specialized in "soundalike" tribute records where all the music came from the same band or artist. In this case it's mssrs. Frey, Henley and friends, aka the country-rock superstars, The Eagles. So, I guess if you didn't like the way the original versions sounded, you could try this album instead? Sadly, I have no information about the musicians who played on these sessions...
Mirror Image "Sounds Like The Very Best Of Eagles" (Pickwick Records, 1980) (LP)
Wow... I guess the first album sold well enough that they commissioned more recordings... Witness this expanded, two LP set of Eagles covers... yikes!!
Mirror Image "Sounds Like Kenny Rogers" (Pickwick Records, 1979-?) (LP)
A budget-label homage to the Dark Lord, Kenny "Sauron" Rogers....
Mirror Image "Performs The Songs Of Kenny Rogers, v.2" (Pickwick Records, 1980-?) (LP)
Oh, I have no problem with "Coward Of The County," but once you get down to "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer" and "You Decorated My Life," maybe you have to ask yourself: Did we really need a Volume Two?
Miss Shirley "A Kitty Wells Songbook" (Arc Records, 1967-?) (LP)
Born in Matepedia, Quebec, "Miss" Shirley Timmins moved to Toronto in the late 1950s and sang in local nighclubs and bars, as well as some radio and tv gigs. This was, I think, her first album, though there's no indication of when it was made, or who the musicians were backing her.
Mission Mountain Wood Band "In Without Knocking" (M2WB Records, 1977) (LP)
A classic hippiebilly indie-twang album from a hard-working band that met with a tragic end. The Wood Band was a hard-working regional group which was together for most of the '70s, and this album had farily wide distribution in the plains states and on the West Coast, probably mostly due to their relentless touring. The original band went through a few changes and finally changed their name to Montana (and later The Montana Band) in 1982 when several key members left, and others took up the banner. They kept at it for several years and released several albums (listed below) before the entire band was killed in a plane crash in 1987. It all started out great, though, and this record has some nice stuff on it: I remember hearing some of these songs on the legendary alt-twang radio station, KFAT, back when I was a kid.
The Mississippi Band "Take Your Chances" (1981) (LP)
This group from Dubuque were stalwarts of Iowa's independent country-folk scene, starting out in 1972 and keeping together through the rest of the decade. Led by founders Dwayne Fudge and Bill "Cricket" Davis, like many local bands it had a rotating cast of musicians, including folks like Billy McGuire, and Dave Hummel, pedal steel player Mark Oberfell and drummer Charlie Troy. They finally recorded their first album in 1981; that same year they were cast in the movie Take This Job And Shove It, and even though that appearance didn't shoot them to the top of the pops, it's still a cool legacy for a local twangband. The band kept together for years after that, recording a second album in 2000.
Missouri "Missouri" (Polydor Records, 1977) (LP)
I'm really just listing these guys as a cautionary note: despite the promise of their non-coastal bandname, they were not country-rock or country-flavored; they are often cited as a "Southern rock" band but I don't hear any of the hick licks or even the blues riffs that I'd consider hallmarks of the genre. Just a loud, punk-free, twang-free, mainstream American guitar-rock band from the '70s. Twangfans need not apply.
Missouri "Welcome Two Missouri" (Polydor Records, 1979) (LP)
The second album by this unheralded, cult-fave Midwest band... Still rockin', still not country. Just in case you're wondering.
Missouri Corn Dodgers "Old Time String Band Music" (Davis Unlimited, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Davis & The Missouri Corn Dodgers)
Squeaky, raspy, rollicking old-timey music by a St. Louis trio also known as "The Original Missouri Corn Dodgers" -- this longhaired band included Bob Abrams on fiddle and mandolin, Julie Hager playing guitar and Jim Olin on banjo... Plenty of plangent twang on this one: the repertoire and performances are authentic as all getout, but as is often the case with old-timey music, you're either in, or you're out. Fans of the style will love this one, others may find it a bit severe.
Missouri Rain "Got To Have My Music" (History Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Pangborn, Pat Shikany & Larry Lee)
Missouri Rain "Country Rock High" (History Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Pangborn & Pat Shikany)
Missouri Woodland "Signing Our Lives Away" (Missouri Woodland, 1978) (LP)
Countryfied soft-rock from the Kansas City duo of Royal Scanlon and Gary D. Paredes, along with a modest, unobtrusive backing band. They wrote or co-wrote all the songs on here, with Scanlon contributing the most material. It's nice, innocuous stuff, sort of headed in a Seals & Crofts/Brewer & Shipley AOR direction, but still anchored to a local-folkie sound, with a nice, lazy vibe. Apparently they went up to Minneapolis to record this, and among the studio musicians is session player Cal Hand, a Twin Cities local adding some sweet pedal steel on several tracks. This might not electrify your world, but it's another good, quiet example of Midwestern DIY hippie twang. (Note: this album is frequently listed under the names of Scanlon and Paredes, but was actually meant to be under the band name. If you look at the original inner sleeve, it reads, "Missouri Woodland is..." and, according to a blog post by Mr. Scanlon, the group's original name was The Great Missouri Woodland Railroad. Just in case it matters.)
Mr. And Mrs. Garvey "Mr. And Mrs. Garvey" (Epic Records, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Johnston)
Really more of a psychedelic/orchestral pop-folk, 'Sixties kinda thing, but worth inclusion here because of the wealth of Nashville talent backing them up... Pat and Victoria Garvey were a folkie duo who had been playing together for several years before they got their big break and signed to Epic Records in 1968. Traveling from their home base in Aspen, Colorado clear out to Nashville, they got the full treatment, booking studio time with youth-oriented producer Bob Johnston, who helmed a session with all of the a-list "cats" such as Kenny Buttrey, Charlie Daniels, Wayne Moss, Charlie McCoy, with a slew of woodwind and horn players thrown in for good measure. The harpischord figures rather prominently on this album, if that helps you triangulate. There is some overt twang, though: fabled fiddler Tommy Jackson gets some nice licks in on "Fifi O'Toole," a song later covered by the Irish Rovers. Some of their other songs caught outside attention as well: John Denver recorded "Fugacity," and "The Loving Of The Game" was covered by folkie Steve Goodman, Judy Collins and many others. The Garveys were living in Colorado at the time of this recording, though they also worked for several years in Seattle and in upstate New York. The couple broke up in the early 'Seventies, and Victoria Garvey later married another musician, Don Armstrong, recording several albums with him and moving to Tucson, where she passed away in 2014. Pat Garvey later suffered a stroke and died in 2017. (Thanks to mudcat.org for an extensive thread about the Garveys' career which included a lengthy post by Mrs. Garvey in which she outlined their career and the circumstances of this album's creation.)
The Misterssippis "Sing And String" (Gramophone Recording Studios, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Schmidt)
I'm not sure how "country" this Winona, Minnesota vocal quartet actually was... They definitely recorded some country stuff, like George Hamilton's "Abilene" and "Lone Prairie" as well as gospel tunes and some novelty number such as "The Interstate Is Coming Through My Outhouse" and pop oldies like "Jeepers Creepers." I think they may have been more of a mix between country, pop and barbershop...
The Misty Blues "Please Walk By" (Renovah)
Early '70s country covers on a bluegrass label, including Merle Haggard's "Branded Man" and a loopy "psychedelic" version of "Okie From Muskogee," as well as a covers of "Easy Lovin'," and "Knock Three Times."
Dean Mitchell "Did You Hear My Song?" (Stargem Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Wayne Hodge)
A farm kid from Jackson County, Arkansas, by choice Dean Mitchell stuck to the local scene -- according to the liner notes he turned down invitations to tour nationally because he wanted to stay close to his family. So he played county fairs and other regional gigs, and eventually made his way to Nashville to record this album, which includes several of his own songs, along with a couple by G. Litton ("Looking Back At Luckenbach" and "Early Morning Sadness Of The Rain") as well as the title track, which was written by Terry Carisse, and previously a hit for the Mercy Brothers.
Dean Mitchell "Me And Jimmie's Blues" (Foundation Records, 1981) (LP)
The first of two Jimmie Rodgers tribute albums... or was there a third? Hmmm.
Dean Mitchell "Me And Jimmie's Blues, v.2" (Foundation Records, 198--?) (LP)
Dean Mitchell "Slippin' Away" (Foundation Records, 1984) (LP)
A gospel offering, mostly standards such as "On The Wings Of A Dove," "One Day At A Time," "Slipping Away" and "Uncloudy Day."
Marty Mitchell "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" (MC Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Styner)
A predecessor to the better-known Curb label, MC Records was an odd, short-lived partnership between record mogul Mike Curb and Motown Records, which distributed the handful of albums that came out on MC. These discs had a notably generic, nondescript look, all but shouting out "tax writeoff," although this LP by Alabama-born singer Marty Mitchell actually did fairly well, fielding two singles, both covers of earlier pop hits. It kicks off with a ridiculously twanged-up, perky rendition of Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," a garish country cover which improbably hit the Top Forty, peaking out at #34. Mitchell's slightly countrified version of Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You" languished in the Back Forty, however, and other AOR covers -- "You Light Up My Life," "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," David Gates's "Make It With You" -- remained obscure album cuts. Of more interest are a couple of originals, "You Wind Up Being Blue" and "Virginia," as well as his covers of the Marty Robbins classic, "Devil Woman," and perhaps more surprisingly, of Linda Hargrove's "All Alone In Austin." This is an odd duck of an album -- some of the re-arrangements are outlandish, though mostly the record is pretty sedate, with some of the soft-pop covers being nearly indistinguishable from the original versions. As far as I know, this was Mitchell's only album, though I could be wrong about that -- it was certainly one of the commercial high points for the MC label.
Price Mitchell "The Best Of Price Mitchell" (Sunbird Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Nelson Larkin)
Billing himself as "Mister Country Soul," Mississippi-born Price Mitchell specialized in slightly twangy pop-country covers of poppy R&B oldies, stuff like the Motown standard, "I Can't Help Myself" or Lloyd Price's "Personality," which was his biggest chart single. Although "Personality" cracked into the Top 30, for the most part Mitchell met with middling success, and it's the obscuro countrypolitan stuff that's actually the most interesting material. This album is a repackaging of some of his recordings for the GRT label, and also includes a couple of Earl Conley songs, as well as one by Jim Chesnutt.
Steve Mitchell "The Singing Cowboy" (STM Ranch Records. 1982) (LP)
Standard-issue cowboy tunes like "Back In The Saddle," "Buttons And Bows," "Don't Fence Me In," "Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine," and "You Are My Sunshine." It seems to me that there might have been one or two other range riders who could lay claim to the title of "the" singing cowboy -- like Gene Autry, who he covers here -- but I got no problems with this Mitchell guy from Texas. Apparently he's been at it for a while, and cut a big figure on the cowboy-poetry scene.
Johnny Mitchum "...Sings And Plays All Cowboy Songs/Riding Old Blaze" (Mitchum Records. 19--?) (LP)
Championship fiddler Johnny Mitchum breaks out of his usual fiddle-tune wheelhouse and does some singing on this self-released set. As advertised, he digs into the "western" (cowboy) genre, and also gets in a few sweet licks on his violin.
Dan Mobley "Walk In The Wind And The Rain" (Columbian Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Moe Wittimore)
Gary Mobley "Reflections Of Love" (Appaloosa Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Greg Alexander)
Mr. Mobley was a Cincinnati native who's moved out to the 'burbs in Mason, Ohio by the time this album came out... It's strictly a super-local affair, with no flashy Nashville types involved, though a couple of the guys picking on here go back a ways, notably Kentucky hillbilly Delbert Barker (who plays bass here) and pianist Dumpy Rice, who did a ton of session work on the Cincinnati-Dayton twang scene. Mostly, though, the musicians seem to be acquaintances of Murphy's, including Keith Adams (harmony vocals), Betty Auterson (vocals), Red Creech on lead guitar and Glenn Hamblin on acoustic guitar, while off to the side are Barker and Rice along with some other pickers who were probably hired guns, including fiddler Bill Thomas and steel player Dave Zornes. Along with guitarist Creech, Mobley had some connections to the Renfro Valley music venue, and brings a bunch of his own material to this album -- all but two of the tracks are his own originals. No date on the disc, but from the look of things, I'd say it's an early- to mid-'Eighties affair.
Sylvia Mobley "My Needs Are You" (Belle Meade Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Scotty Moore & Al Gore)
Way back in the early 1960s, Southern singer Sylvia Mobley (1941-2017) recorded several catchy, charmingly primitive latter-day rockabilly/country-twang singles, including one that was cut for Starday, and another for bandleader Gene Williams, down in her native state of Arkansas. She worked with Williams and other hard-country bandleaders such as Jimmy Haggett, and released a handful of 45s before cutting this LP sometime in the late '70s, an album that seems to be put together from a couple of sessions around 1975. Amid covers of oldies by Buck Owens ("Under Your Spell Again") and Slim Willet ("Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes") are a half-dozen originals credited to Ms. Mobley -- a nice legacy for this little-known country gal! In the mid-1960s, Mobley was apparently a cast member of the Cotton Town Jubilee, a revue which was led by Gene Williams, and later worked as a tour bus operator for Gray Line Tours.
Sylvia Mobley "Songs For Mama" (Ray's Of Gold, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Scotty Moore)
A nostalgic gospel set, with backing from some solid, A-list studio musicians, including D. J. Fontana on drums, Hoot Hester (fiddle), Willie Rainsford (piano), Larry Sasser (dobro) and Pete Wade on guitar. Along with a bunch of gospel standards ("Will The Circle Be Unbroken," "Life's Railway To Heaven," "If I Could Hear Mother Pray") are newer tunes and Mobley originals such as "Mama" and "Can't You Remember."
Moby Grape "Moby Grape" (Columbia Records, 1967)
(Produced by David Rubinson)
One of the most musically accomplished (and coolest-named) of the big-ticket bands from the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene, Moby Grape have not fared well over the years in terms of the availability of their music. Their manager royally screwed them, taking both the rights to their records and to the band's name itself, and because of endless legal wrangling their records were unavailable for most of the CD era, and the editions that have come out have been bitter disappointments to fans. That's particularly true in the case of their brilliant debut, a record that consistently surprises me because of its high content of true twang. Of course, a lot of the San Francisco bands wove country and folk themes into their work, many having cut their teeth as jug band blues groups, or bluegrass pickers (or both) but the early Moby Grape albums were packed with a brand of full-on twang that I would consider one of the first real forerunners of the rock/twang brand of "Americana" that became popular in the 1980s and '90s. It's great stuff, with lots of odd, catchy songs, a lively sense of humor and great musicianship. Alas, the evil ex-manager has only reissued this debut album in what many fans consider an inferior edition -- low budget, high-priced, some would say poorly remastered -- and other records remain in limbo as well. It won't last forever, but it is amazing that this great band's best work has largely eluded proper reissue during the entire length of the great digital reissue boom of the last few decades. Still totally worth checking out, though -- every time I hear this album, I am amazed at how good it is and how well it stands the test of time. And how "country" it is!
Moby Grape "Vintage: The Very Best Of Moby Grape" (Sundazed Records, 1993)
Mojave Green "Our First (Cheap) Album" (Rhyolite Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Howard Dolan & Jerry McCord)
Molly B' Damn "Last Night In Paradise" (Cowpie Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Ramsey)
Roger Monhollen "Neighbors Lovin' One Another" (ACA Records, 19--?) (LP)
Recorded in Nashville, this was a mic of covers and original material a "Hank Williams Medley" included, too. Some promising song titles: "Sin's Dark Valley" and "She'll Never See The Sun Shine Again." Methinks Porter Wagoner would be proud.
Roger Monhollen "Alabama Boogie Man" (ACA Records, 19--?) (LP)
Jim Monigold "Idaho Jim" (Luram Records, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Sal Marullo)
This album was recorded in Monterey, California which was Jim Monigold's old stomping ground before a move to Idaho... As a teen in 1960's Salinas, Monigold played in local rock bands such as the surfy/garagey Fisher Brothers, who recorded a couple of major label singles. Later on he transformed himself into a twangy, country-oriented troubadour... He wrote the title track in honor of his new locale -- Monigold wrote four songs on here, with another original by drummer/producer Sal Marullo, along with covers of Willie Nelson's "Night Life" and the Band's big hit, "The Weight," as well as Jan Crutchfield's "It Turns Me Inside Out," which was Lee Greenwood's first big hit. Later, Monigold moved to Tennessee where he tried to hustle up work as a session player... He passed away in 2011.
Montana "Change In The Weather" (Waterhouse Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Bean)
These guys, at least some of them, were formerly known as the Mission Mountain Wood Band; apparently the named was changed after several of the founding members drifted away into full-time careers or other musical gigs... On this aptly-titled album, they're clearly looking for a hit in the early '80s mode, and while there's some residual twang in the mix, on most tracks they're aiming at a straight-up pop sound, as on "Dreamer" (with it's tinny '80s lead guitar) as well as the dreadful, saxophone-heavy "Sure Fooled Me," and the Dan Seals-ish "She's Never Gone." Founding member Rob Quist clung to his banjo on the back cover and contributes a couple of the twangier tunes, but mostly the ship seems to have sailed, and the whole soft-pop thing wasn't really gonna work. This album was Quist's last hurrah with the band: he left in 1984 to pursue a solo career in Nashville, while the rest of the group continued to tour and perform for several years without him. Sadly, the Montana Band itself ended in a spectacular, horrific tragedy, an airplane crash on July 4, 1987 when the small twin-engine plane that was taking them to their next gig crashed in the woods near Kalispell, Montana. A terrible epitaph for a popular Northern band... Quist moved back to Montana and formed several other bands, including a "re-boot" of the Mission Mountain Wood Band.
Montana Band "Wake Me When That Sun Goes Down" (Lake Song, 1984) (LP)
Montana Band "Long Talk With Myself" (Moore Recording Corporation, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Laney & Dale Moore)
This was a postumously released record, with liner notes that make note of the plane crash that killed the band...
Montie Montana, Jr. "Songs Of Montana: Big Sky Country" (1964) (LP)
A rodeo rider and rancher, Mr. Montana was the son of Montie Montana, Sr., who was apparently an entertainer in his own right... This album was commissioned by rancher Howard T. Kelsey, of the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in honor of the centennial celebration of Montana's being named a territory in 1864 (as well as the diamond jubilee of its statehood in 1889...) About half the songs have explicit Montana-related themes ("Going Home To Montana," "I Love Montana" "Bozeman Trail," etc.) along with others that have more general "western" flair. (Kansans may take exception to the inclusion of their state song, "Home On The Range," on an album honoring the Big Sky State, though they may be flattered by the as well...) Eight of the album's songs were composed by Montana native Gene Quaw to be recorded by Mr. Montana and his band, The Wranglers.
Patsy Montana - see artist discography
Montana Skyline "Full Moon, Empty Pockets" (Snow Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Montana Skyline & Hal Sacks)
Montana Skyline "Big Skies And Sawdust Floors" (Brave Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Brien Fisher)
Montezuma's Revenge "First Run" (Prune Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Compton & Montezuma's Revenge)
This San Diego-area longhair twang band specialized in novelty songs, almost uniformly of a puerile, sex-joke or fart-joke or poop-joke variety. They were sort of Southern California's answer to Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, though with a much narrower range of song topics. The song "Spring Valley Sally" refers to their hometown of Spring Valley, CA, which is in some hot, desert-y locale.
Montezuma's Revenge "Royal Flush - Live" (Prune Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jeff Johnson)
This live album opens on a sour note, their cheerfully homophobic "Ballad Of Bengue," which conflates homosexuality, prostitution and S&M, with the lead vocals sung in a mincey "gay" accent. Now, I'm not saying that there are no kinky gay prostitutes in the world (particularly around San Diego...) but writing a novelty song about one for a faux-country album... Well, it's a little less than ideal. Plus, it's not a very funny song. Things get better on the banjodelic "Tomorrow I'm On My Way," then go sideways again with the dreadful oldies medley that takes up the remainder of Side One: "Wipeout," "Tequila," "Wooley Bully," etc. It was probably fun at the time, but it doesn't stand the test of the time... particularly when they start queer-bashing again, on "Surfer Joe," calling the fictional Joe a limp-wristed hairdresser, etc. What dicks. And it keeps going: there's also the Jose Jimenez-style "Messikin" accent on "Gringo" (briefly reprised on their jokey rendition of "El Paso"...) The best that can be said for this album, perhaps, is that it's not as mired in poop and fart jokes as their earlier albums, but it's still pretty infantile. These were guys who didn't know when the joke wasn't funny... in a big way. But, whatever. Their fans seemed to have been enjoying themselves, so I guess if you drink enough beer, just about anything seems funny.
Montezuma's Revenge "Suite Revenge" (Prune Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Montezuma's Revenge)
Along with a tune called "The Peeping Tom," this includes a thirteen-minute long variation of "Orange Blossom Special." Seems like maybe they mellowed out a little...
Joe Montgomery "Second Chance" (FWI Records, 1977) (LP)
A singer from Fort Wayne, Indiana who was friends with an older guy named Ernest P. McCarty who wrote songs, but never made a record himself. Montgomery collaborated with McCarty to create this album of all-original material... It's kinda sweet, really!
The Moods "Live At Turner Hall" (ACR/Kno-Bel Records, 1969) (LP)
The Moods (Of Country Music) "Precision Guesswork" (Mood Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bruce Nelson & A. V. Mittelstedt)
A hard-working show band from Taylor, Texas, a northern suburb of Austin... These guys had a surprisingly funky, swampy sound, particularly on tracks like their version of "Tulsa Turn Around," which was co-composed by Alex Harvey and Larry Collins (of Collins Kids fame) the same pair that wrote "Delta Dawn." The Moods billed themselves as a "progressive" county band and apparently mainly played gigs in Austin and Houston. The liner notes are by Bruce Nelson, music director of radio station KENR in Houston, who also produced the album and probably managed the band. He name drops some of the clubs they'd played and thanks steel player Robbie Springfield and the Bowen Sisters vocal trio, but unfortunately neglects to name the actual members of the band.
Carlton Moody "No Hard Feelings" (Lamon Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Williams)
The Moody Brothers -- Carlton, Dave and Trent Moody -- originally hailed from Charlotte, North Carolina. They broke through in the 1980s bluegrass/Americana scene, in part because of their success touring with George Hamilton IV, who was looking for a bluegrass sound at the time. The Moody Brothers had no trouble delivering: their father, old-time fiddler Dwight Moody, was in Bill Monroe's band years before, and their country roots ran deep, with the boys playing gospel music on a local TV show when they were kids. Before establishing themselves as "Americana" artists, however, the Moodys had tried their hands at more mainstream-sounding, secular country music, recording several albums on their father's independently-owned label, Lamon Records, while also producing countless "private press" records for numerous off-the-radar musicians. Carlton Moody went on to become a latter-day member of Burrito Deluxe, the re-re-reincarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers band, while Dave Moody managed the Lamon label and concentrated on a career as a contemporary Christian singer.
Carlton Moody & The Moody Brothers "Carlton Moody And The Moody Brothers" (Sundown Records, 19--?) (LP)
Carlton Moody "Gimme A Smile" (Lamon Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Carlton Moody & David Moody)
Carlton Moody & The Moody Brothers "Cotton Eyed Joe" (Sundown Records, 1986) (LP)
Clyde Moody "Country Waltz King" (Longhorn Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
George Moody "Winners" (Dude Records, 197-?) (LP)
John Mooney "Comin' Your Way" (Blind Pig Records, 1979) (LP)
Fun acoustic blues from a guy originally from upstate New York, but later part of the New Orleans scene. Mooney went in a more "urban blues," electrified direction in the '80s, but this debut disc has a nice funky, rootsy feel that keeps it in the indiebilly camp, at least in my fevered mind. Kind of fits into the whole George Gritzbach/Bob Brozman/Dan Hicks continuum... Plus, you gotta love that National steel guitar sound!
The Moonlighters "The Moonlighters" (Amherst Records, 1977)
A "solo" project from roots-rock guitarist Bill Kirchen, a band he started at the tail-end of his tenure with Commander Cody...
The Moonlighters "Rush Hour" (Demon Records, 1983)
(Produced by Nick Lowe)
A punchy, relentlessly upbeat album with tightly arranged rock-soul grooves straight out of the playbook of producer Nick Lowe, much in the same vein as Rockpile and Nick Lowe's albums, though with a tough American edge that's distinctly Kirchen-esque... Kirchen cuts loose on some gritty guitar riffs on the opening tracks -- the second half of the album gets funkier, with dips into soul and reggae riddims... But there are several songs about cruising and cars as well... It wouldn't be Kirchen-adelic otherwise!
The Moonlighters "The Missing Moonlighters: Live/Studio Closet Tapes" (Globe Records, 2008)
The Moon Pie Daince Band "Enchanted Mesa" (Goldust Records, 1978) (LP)
A rootsy-hippie jam band from El Paso, Texas with a distinctly Grateful Dead-ish vibe, crossed with Allman Brothers-esque Southern Rock guitars... Funny stuff, though very much of its time!
The Moon Pie Daince Band "Flower In The Sand" (Folklore Records, 1982)
The Moonee Valley Drifters "Boogie Woogie Fever" (Brunswick Recordings, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by James Black & The Drifters)
An amiable, uptempo set by a country-and-jump-blues retro band from Australia. They play all kinds of oldies -- country stuff from Gene Autry, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins, Floyd Tillman and others, along with some 1940s/50s-style R&B... The group features pianist/producer James Black, Tom Forsell (lead vocals, mandolin), Rob Greenville (lead guitar), Peter Linden (pedal steel, saxophone), Andrew Lindsay (drums) and Paul Pyle (bass) who all seem to have a good time jamming together. It's not earthshaking or groundbreaking, but fans of Big Sandy, et.al. might get a kick out of it. This album was sponsored by the arts council of the city of Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne, adjacent to Moonee Valley, on the north side of the city.
Bill Moore & Travis Edmonson "The Liar's Hour" (Latigo Records, 19--?) (LP)
This album features narration by real-life cowboy Bill Moore and music by Travis Edmonson, a veteran 'Sixties folkie formerly of the Gateway Singers and the popular duo Bud & Travis. They recreate the feel of the round-robin, cock-and-bull song-and-joke sessions of cowboy campfires at roundup time. he album has a particularly Arizonan feel -- Edmonson grew up in Nogales, and several of the songs are from Arizona artists. The humor-filled set includes a lot of obscure selections, along with the title track, an original song written by Edmonson that captures the essence of the campfire ritual. A nice one for fans of the genre!
The Moore Brothers "Writing A Song To You" (King Bluegrass Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Cecil Jones & Robert Trout)
Daniel Moore "Daniel Moore" (ABC-Dunhill Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Daniel Moore)
At its best, this album is one of those weird, wonderful, eclectic albums from the early 'Seventies, blending country vibes with Muscle Shoals white soul and a heavy dose of churchy black gospel. There's also a fair amount of sludgy-yet-melodic boogie-blue rock with a post-Beatles McCartney vibe... Or perhaps more of a Ringo kinda sound. This doesn't all wow me, but there are a few tunes worth tracking from a twangfan's perspective, particularly with pickers such as T-Bone Burnett, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Don Preston chiming in, as well as Chris Ethridge of the Flying Burrito Brothers. "May 16 - 75" is an album highlight, as is "Sweet Love Song To My Soul," even though he lays it on a bit thick there. (Worth noting: Originally from Idaho, Daniel Moore was the brother of LA-based rock songwriter Matthew Moore, who plays keyboards and contributes a couple of songs here. The Moores played together for years, including a string of edgy garage-psych bands, dating back to the mid-1960s, including the Plymouth Rockers, and The Matthew Moore Plus Four; Matthew also recorded a solo album or two of his own, though country fans need not track those discs down.)
Don Moore & Bob Clear "Tulsa Mountains" (Trayson Records, 1979) (LP)
Dottie Moore "In Memory Of The Golden Voice" (Ranger Records, 19--?) (LP)
Honky tonk singer and country composer Dottie Moore (1930-67) was a lifelong native of Flint, Michigan who established a strong regional following, but never was able to break out onto the national scene. In addition to this album, she recorded a couple of hard-country singles, one each on the King and Starday label, and found work on radio and TV shows in Michigan and in the South. Moore also recorded a final single for the Ranger label, with a picture cover that shows her wearing dark sunglasses: a victim of childhood diabetes, Moore lost her sight in the final years of her life. (Thanks to hillbilly-music.com for their research on this obscure but outstanding artist...)
Eddie Moore "Moore Country" (Country International Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Bud McGuire & Hurshel Wiginton)
Morris Edward ("Eddie") Moore (1950-2015) was a honkytonk singer from Millport, Alabama whose band played regionally and out of state; in later years, like many country artists, he shifted his focus to a music "ministry," playing gospel material instead of drinking songs. As far as I know this was his only album, and seems to have been a songwriter's demo set: several songs are credited to producer Bud McGuire, who probably bankrolled the record. At least one of the tunes on here struck gold: written by Billy Maddox and David Moore, "If Heaven Ain't A Lot Like Dixie" was later recorded by Hank Williams, Jr. on his High Note album, scoring a Top Five hit in 1987. I wasn't able to track down much info about Mr. Moore online, outside of his obituary and a defunct Facebook page.
Lee Moore "Picks And Sings: Album Number Three" (Promotional Records, 19--?) (LP)
A private-pressing album from Ohio-born singer Walter LeRoy Moore, a WWVA Jamboree performer and deejay who recorded several albums for the Rural Rhythm bluegrass label, as well as numerous earlier recordings in the 'Fifties and early '60s. Not sure when this one was made -- it's a simple, stripped-down set, with just Moore himself, playing guitar and singing a mix of secular and gospel oldies, songs such as "I Overlooked An Orchid," "Give Me Forty Acres," "Old Shep," "Farther Along" and "I Walk The Line." The song list suggests this was recorded around 1964-65, just before he started recording for Rural Rhythm. There's no discographical info on the album itself -- heck, the back cover of the album is totally blank! -- but I'd guess that Moore had these pressed up to sell at his shows. Moore was a mainstay on the Jamboree show up until 1974, when he moved to upstate New York and started working at bluegrass festivals.
Lee Moore "A Living Legend In Country Music" (Cattle Records, 1984) (LP)
A later-life solo set with Mr. Moore either picking flattop guitar or playing dobro... The performances are simple and stripped-down, authentic but raw, maybe a bit too stark for casual country fans, but certainly steeped in the sort of history and folklore that many admire.
Jack Moran "As I See It" (Athena Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Powell)
Socially-conscious but slightly square, songwriter Jack Moran penned the preachy "Skip A Rope" which was a chart-topping hit for Henson Cargill in '67... That success led to Moran making his own album, with a repertoire that was packed with similarly socially-conscious songs, tunes with promising titles such as "Suck Your Thumb," "Tommy's Doll," and "Teenage Kids Of Today." Moran was apparently a blind performer (hence the album title and the poetic liner notes by Billy Ed Wheeler that go on and on about how a blind man can "see" things that other people can't... Ah... that was then, this is now. Anyway, for Nashville in the late 'Sixties, early '70s, this was relatively liberal stuff... Kinda goofy, poppy arrangements and painfully sincere lyrics, but some fun stuff as well. See what you think!
Donna Morey & Ron Miller "I Got You, You Got Me" (Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
Sadly, this '70s vanity album doesn't include any background info about either Donna Morey or Ron Miller, nor about their backup band or when and where these sessions took place. It's possible that Ms. Morey was the same Donna Morey who owned a country bar in Seattle called the Buckaroo, but I couldn't find any info to confirm this. Anyway, it's a nice record, with Miller & Morey one of the many early 'Seventies duos who dreamt of being the next Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Miller's a competent, efficiently masculine singer, but the more emotive Morey is the one in the spotlight. Sometimes she's a dead ringer for Lynn Anderson, sometimes she sounds a little more like Loretta or like Donna Fargo -- overall, her performances feel a bit too controlled, self-conscious perhaps, but she was pretty solid, although when she and Miller harmonized she would shift into a lower register and while they sound good, there's not as much differentiation between their voices as you might be used to in country duets. I liked this record, though: it's not earthshaking, but it's earnest and authentic. It just is what it is. Most of the songs are covers, but the title track, "I Got You, You Got Me," may have been original to this record. The song is credited to composer-producer Ricci Moreno and I suspect that he may have actually been the producer for this album, though again there are no liner notes to verify this...
Al Morgan "...Sings Jealous Heart" (Gateway Records, 1974) (LP)
Piano player and crooner Al Morgan (1915-1989) made a mint when he recorded Jenny Lou Carson's classic "Jealous Heart" way back in 1949, selling over ten million copies of the country/pop crossover, with a big band version that many fans consider to be definitive. Born in Mount Adams, Kentucky, Morgan started his career playing piano in beer halls in Cincinnati and later in Chicago, where he was working when he recorded "Jealous Heart." He went on to work in radio and TV and later lost his money running his own nightclubs, but steadily kept performing throughout the decades. Indeed, according to his obituary, Morgan had a heart attack in 1989, but went back to playing club dates despite his doctor's orders, and had a relapse that finally did him in. This album was one of over three dozen he recorded over the years, and has a more distinctly country feel, with covers of Hank Williams and Cindy Walker songs, as well as a re-recording of "Jealous Heart" and some well-chosen pop-jazz standards, and even one song written by Morgan ("Walls Around My Heart") that's kinda nice. There is some full-band country accompaniment with pedal steel and whatnot, but Morgan and his piano take center stage. It helps to be a lounge/ballads fan to really get into this one, but it works for twangfans as well.
The Morgan Brothers "Mixing It Up Good" (Appleton Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by The Morgan Brothers)
Things were not what they seemed with the so-called Morgan Brothers, who were not Morgans, nor all three related. The trio hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin (near Oshkosh), where brothers Don Stiernberg and John Stiernberg (mandolin picker and banjo plunker, respectively) owned a music store... While at Ripon College, John met guitarist John Parrott, who was a transplant from New York. They formed a trio and delved into bluegrass music, though with an eclectic range seen in this scrappy set of traditional bluegrass tunes (stuff by Jim Eanes, Jimmy Martin and the Easter Brothers) augmented by a bunch of 'grassed-up cover tunes, songs by Dan Hicks, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, folkie Eric von Schmidt, Kurt Weill(!) and the Rolling Stones. If you're up for an evening with a twangy "Mack The Knife" alongside "As Tears Go By," this Midwestern trio might be for you. The one original song on here is called "Blue Missouri Sky," written by John Parrott, though he wasn't a Midwesterner. The band had a musical philosophy they called "pro grass," which meant they indulged in a diverse range of styles, but didn't necessarily bent non-bluegrass material into traditional-sounding styles -- just using the acoustic instruments was enough; they also prided themselves on not taking on made-up Southern accents or singing all twangy, but keeping their own Northern intonations.
The Morgan Brothers "Northern Lights" (Blue Ridge Productions, 1976) (LP)
Chuck Morgan & The Front Page "Play And Sing Twelve Original Songs" (Alshire Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Gib Guilbeau and Thad Maxwell) (?)
A dozen originals penned by Charles R. Morgan, a SoCal twangster who at the time was a resident of Palmdale, California. Morgan was in the thick of things in the SoCal country-rock scene, playing tons of club dates and whatnot, falling in with the constantly rotating members of the Flying Burrito Brothers extended, ever-amorphous lineup. Around 1970, Morgan played keyboards in a band called The Reasons, led by fiddler Gib Gilbeau and Wayne Moore of the band Swampwater, and he probably did pick-up work at Gary S. Paxton's studio and for Alshire Records. Although there are no musician or producer credits on this album, a fan site says Gilbeau and Thad Maxwell play on here, and tunes like "Cajun Red" certainly make good use of Gilbeau's cajun fiddling riffs. The Front Page lineup is also said to have recorded some slew of cheapie-label cover songs, working under the name "Lowell Bennett," though these sessions apparently went unreleased, so this album is probably the closest we'll get to hearing what they were like. Pretty durn twangy though also with an early 'Seventies see-what-sticks vibe as well. Hints of Bakersfield-y Buck Owens and novelty-number Jerry Reed, as well a bit of countrypolitan Roy Orbison, and plenty of forlorn, patched-jeans weepers. Dunno what happened to this guy later on. Maybe he made it to Nashville? Anyway, this is a nice slice of hippie-era indie SoCal twang, plenty of un-mined originals to chew through here.
Danny Morgan "Danny Morgan" (Hal Bernard Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Platt)
Darn you, Seventies that lasted into the early Eighties! And darn me for not seeing all the warning signs: flute, saxophone, recorder, conga drums, synthesizer, "percussives...?" How could I have not noticed that Danny Morgan himself plays windchimes? So, yes, despite his rugged, beard-y manly-man-ishness, despite the straw hat and bluejeans, and even with a picture of him riding a horse, this ain't no country record, not by a longshot. Fans of super-wimpy 'Seventies-style soft-pop might get a kick out of this one, but if you were looking for hard-country honkytonk, this could conceivably make you want to gouge your ears out. So, another one I took for the team. You were warned.
Jan Morgan "That's Why I Smile" (Gateway Records, 1975) (LP)
A "solo" set by the wife of lounge singer Al Morgan, with him contributing piano and vocals on several songs...
The Jon Morgan Band "Home Town Heros And Honky Tonk Stars" (Golden Eagle Recordings, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jon Morgan)
A hard-country/Southern rock bar band from Palmyra, Illinois, with some tracks recorded live at the Wooden Nickel Saloon in central Illinois.
Larry Morgan "...And The Westernaires" (Cuca Records, 19--?) (LP)
This Midwestern band was led by Illinois native Larry Morgan, who started his country career while living in Gulf Coast Texas back in the late 1950s. After a stint in the military, Morgan returned to Illinois and formed the Westernaires in 1966. The group included brothers Don Thompson (bass) and Kenneth Thompson (lead guitar), along with drummer Billy Hilburn; they also thank pedal steel player Billy Wayne Hamilton for sitting in on these sessions. The repertoire is packed with classic country covers, including some stuff from Bakersfield artists such as Merle Haggard and Wynn Stewart, as well as honkytonkers like Ray Price and George Jones. There are no producer or songwriter credits but they thank Floyd Robinson for getting their album made... A couple of songs, "Please Don't Leave Me" and "Walk Me To The Door," might have been originals.
Lee Morgan "Telling It Like It Is" (Buzz Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Morgan, Ron Jeffries & Bob Witte)
The Morgans "Middle Of The Road" (Morgan Records, 1980-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Morgan & Mo Whittenmore)
A mystery disc from Indianapolis, Indiana. The Morgans are parenthetically identified as Dick and Betty Morgan, although the other musicians are presumably family members as well, with Dave Morgan on drums and Phil Morgan playing bass. They sing a lot of medleys of classic country and pop material, including a string of Neil Diamond hits, and a Hank Williams tribute. There are also a couple of originals, Dick Morgan's "Hey Mister Guitar Man" and "Precious Fool," which was co-written with Phil Morgan. I couldn't find a release date for this one, though it has to be some time after 1980, since they also cover Eddie Rabbitt's "Drivin' My Life Away." Other than that, your guess is as good as mine!
Bob Morley "Through A Glass, Darkly" (Jewel Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Reggie Wallace)
Contemplative Christian folkie Bob Morely was from Anaheim, California though his record came out on the Cincinnati-based Jewel label... Although he does have a guy (Bruce Andrews) playing banjo, this album is not as country-flavored as the one below... In addition to some original material, Morely covers a few inspirationally-themed pop songs, including "Morning Has Broken," "The Boxer" and "Lean On Me."
Bob Morley "At Home In The World" (Jewel Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Harry Urschel)
This album has a more overt twang factor, with steel guitar licks by Chuck Rich, and Jewel Records label owner Rusty York playing banjo and dobro on the sessions... Once again, Morely mixes his own songs with pop covers such as versions of "Desperado," "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" and "I Can See Clearly Now." He was still in Southern California, moving from Anaheim to the adjacent town of Yorba Linda -- Morely made numerous other albums, though most probably don't fit into this alt-country guide.
Willie Morrell "Lead Me Not Into Temptation" (Country Artists Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Finley Duncan)
Latter-day honkytonk by a guy from Milton, Florida... Morrell seems to have been the "talent" for a local publishing company -- variously identified as Friendly Finley Music, or Chu-Fin Music -- that was run by producer Finley Duncan, possibly as a kind of "song poem" enterprise. The songs are all by composers signed to that company: Bert Colwell, Jim Foster, Bill Floyd, Bonnie Parker, Gail Sheppard, and three songs by Becki Bluefield, who also sings a duet with Morrell, on her "Lovin' In The Same Old Way."
David Morris & John Morris "Music As We Learned It" (Kidtown Traditional Records, 1969) (LP)
Brothers Davis and John Morris were born and raised in West Virginia, learning old-timey traditional music while still quite young, and as college-aged men they championed the unruly Appalachian style at a time when the bluegrass revival was moving towards the slicker, more flashy "progressive" style... They recorded this back-to-basics album in 1969, the same year they founded their own music festival, which was held on their family farm in Ivydale, West Virginia. They hosted the festival from 1969-72; a few years later it transformed into the Vandalia Gathering, with the brothers remaining active in traditional music for many years to come.
Dick Morris "Reflections Of A Wasted Youth" (Progress Records, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Lanny Clark & Greg Ballard)
A country traditionalist trying to forge ahead during the slick-sounding '80s, Dick Morris was part of the last of gasp of resolutely small-time, local artists who were indie before indie was cool. Morris and his band were from Rock Island, Illinois, where they recorded this album with a non-Nashville crew. The production is modern-sounding, though fairly paint-by-number; Morris had a solid band backing him up, electrified but keeping things twangy... The songs are originals, written in a formalized, older style reminiscent of the sentimental hillbilly songs of the 1940s and the more heartfelt, early honkytonk ballads of the '50s. Morris himself was not a great singer, sounding a bit Don Bowman-esque at times, with slightly inexpressive phrasing that makes it hard to assess the calibre of his songwriting.. This, combined with the disjoint between his old-fashioned songs and the wannabe-glossy musical style give this record an amateurish feel, although there's plenty of talent on both sides of the divide -- his sincerity and devotion to the music and the upbeat, electrified band. Particularly worth noting is the energetic pedal steel by Perry Crews, one of several local musicians that help propel this album along.
The Don Morris Band "Indiana Has Cowboys, Too" (1985) (LP)
Country twang from Terra Haute... Although this got written up in the local newspaper, The Tribune Star, when it came out in 1985, this remains one of the most obscure records I'm come across, with virtually no information about it online. Don? You out there? No? Well, regardless, he seems to have made a couple of albums since then.
Leon Morris "Walkin' Home To Pittsburg" (Folly Records/Musical Markets, Inc., 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Leon Morris, Marvin Myrtle & R. N. Drevo)
Bluegrass with country touches... Originally from Toronto, Canada, Leon Morris played guitar on Geordie Tapp's "Saturday Night Jamboree" show before moving to the US in the late 1950s, where he got into the East Coast bluegrass scene. This album was recorded in Silver Spring, Maryland with a band that included Leon Morris on guitar, Mike Auldridge (dobro), Bob Wilkerson (banjo), mandolin by Frankie Short and Smiley Hobbs; bass by Ray Griffin and Gary Henderson. There are versions of "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Sugarfoot Rag," as well as more mainstream bluegrass fare, such as "Banks Of The Ohio" and "Old Joe Clark."
Jim Morrison "Songs For And About You" (Curley Q Records, 19--?) (LP)
A former rockabilly rebel from Miami, Florida, singer Jim "Curley" Morrison began recording back in the late 1950s, when he was in the Air Force, stationed at Homestead AFB, and started his own label, Curley Q Records, sometime in the early 'Sixties. He produced a steady stream of singles, material that seems to form the core of this LP, which was released while he was living in Fort Worth, Texas. Included is a version of his early hit, "Air Force Blues," as well as other originals such as "Ace In The Hole," and a version of the old folk standard, "Bill Bailey." Almost all the music is credited to Morrison, with one song by Jack Rhodes and another co-written with Eddie Manney. There are no musician credits, alas, though there is a shout-out to drummer Fred C. Albee. Assuming that many of these tracks are re-releases of Morrison's old singles, some blanks may be filled in by a long post on the Hillbilly Country blog which documents much of Morrison's career and mentions some of the musicians he may have played with.
Nickie Morrison "Watch Your Mouth" (Charles Morrison Sounds Recording, 1975)
(Produced by Charles Morrison Sounds)
A nice example of the kind of under-the-radar recordings to be found on the peripheries of Nashville, balancing covers of hits by Kris Kristofferson and Joe South with a hefty dose of original material... Singer-organist Nickie Morrison recorded and self-released this vanity pressing, I assume, as a songwriter demo -- there are two originals by him on here, as well as three songs by a guy named Ray Marable, who shared the same publisher. The title track, which he included as the first song on both Side One and Side Two, is a little scary, meant to be a jaunty novelty tune in the style of Jerry Reed or Joe Stampley, about a guy who tells his wife, I love you baby but you better keep your mouth shut when I come home drunk -- clearly Morrison hoped that this would become a hit, but I'm glad it didn't. In contrast, the Marable songs are all pretty nice, your basic soulful, downtempo honkytonk weepers that Morrison sings in a robust, Charlie Rich-ish voice, with able backing from a studio crew that included Charlie McCoy, DJ Fontana and Russ Hicks. (...now you can see why I picked this one up, right?) Although he's not credited as a musician on this album, Marable apparently recorded at least one single under his own name -- Morrison never cracked into the big-time, but he did run a music store, selling pianos in Clarksville, TN for many years after this nice little record came out. Amazing how much talent there is in Tennessee, with guys like this as the guys who didn't make it! (Footnote: Mr. Morrison passed away in March, 2014, although this album was not mentioned in his brief obituary.)
Harold Morrison "The Harold Morrison Show" (GKG Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Tony Brown; Jimmy Tarbutton, Engineer)
Old-school session picker Harold Morrison -- who also toured with Nashville stars such as George Jones and the Wilburn Brothers -- goes sorta-solo and whoops up a storm on banjo, dobro and guitar, with a killer band behind him. Vocals by Johnny Rice and Billy Smith, Buddy Spicher on fiddle, Buck White on mandolin, Jerry Douglas whirling away on the dobro, and album producer Tony Brown sitting in on organ. Plus, some dudes on bass and drums. Man, what a lineup! The repertoire's pretty hip, more country/stringband than bluegrass... Morrison cruises from a lot of 1940s/'50s hillbilly-era tunes by Merle Travis, Wayne Raney and Tex Williams into newer songwriters such as Paul Craft, Alex Harvey and Gram Parsons. Just before cutting this album, Morrison and White had headed up an "Arts America" goodwill tour of Turkey and Greece, with Jerry Douglas backing the Whites; I'd guess this album was an offshoot of that gig.
Van Morrison "Tupelo Honey" (Warner Brothers, 1971)
(Produced by Van Morrison & Ted Templeman)
It's funny, but I think that looking back I got a lot of my love of country music from listening to my big sister play this hippie rock album (and others of the same era) over and over and over when I was a kid. Irish mystic rocker Van Morrison left his R&B band, Them, in the late '60s to pursue a solo career, scoring some big hits on American pop radio, including the manic single off this album, "Wild Night," which was one of a handful of his actual Top 40 songs. More alluring, and more durable perhaps, are the songs off the album's second side where he forged a canny, unprecedented mix of American country, rock and Celtic folk and soul. The title track, "Tupelo Honey," is a gorgeous recording, one of my favorite-ever songs, and is followed, perfectly, by the lilting "I Wanna Roo You," and the rest of this immortal, magical album. Morrison's music was a key building block in the growth of "free-form" FM radio in the '70s and, as I realized years later, an entry point into country twang for an untold number of rock fans. Great stuff.
Ann J. Morton "My Friends Call Me Annie" (Prairie Dust Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Morton)
Although she didn't make much headway as a chart artist, Oklahoma-born Ann J. Morton had some success as a songwriter, placing a few tunes with '70s stars, folks like Johnny Duncan, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride and Gene Watson, as well as writing several popular hymns and an advertising jingle or two. She was married to guitarist Larry Morton, who played in Danny Davis's band, Nashville Brass, and is also the sister of singer Jim Mundy, who was also a songwriter and jingle writer. Morton also recorded this fine, commercially-leaning album using an all-star, usual-suspects Nashville studio crew -- Johnny Gimble, Dave Kirby, Weldon Myrick, Hargus Robbins, Chip Young, etc. -- with the Cates Sisters providing some fine harmony vocals, and an up-and-coming Janie Fricke singing backup... It's good stuff, if you like uptempo, mid-'70s country pop. She came within shouting distance of the Top 40, but it wasn't quite in the cards for her, I guess. At any rate, this album, and a few stray singles make a nice recorded legacy. Recommended!
Christina (Moseley) "What The World Needs Now Is Love" (Moseley Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Moseley & Semie Moseley)
A country(politan) gospel album with nods towards contemporary hits, including covers of Burt Bacharach's "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and the Carpenters' "Top Of The World." The backing band includes Southern California session guitarist Dennis Payne, as well as Paul Dobbs on steel and Jelly Saunders playing fiddle. Christina was married to Semie Moseley, one of the album's producers and co-owner of the Moseley Studios in Bakersfield.
Moses "Live" (Red Dirt Records, 1972) (LP)
Legend has it that this band was the first to use the term "red dirt" to describe their music, helping define the roots-rock style of the Oklahoma/Texas indie-roots scene... The band was led by guitarist Steve Ripley, who many years later formed the band The Tractors. In the early '70s, Ripley was one of many artists in the orbit of a hippie-ish frathouse/commune in Stillwater, Oklahoma called The Farm, where guys hung out, got high and jammed, melding a variety of styles in a distinctly Oklahoma kinda way. Following Ripley's lead, countless bands began to use "red dirt" to describe their music, naming it after the iron-rich red soil of that region of Oklahoma, and creating a new nexus for roots rock and twang, independent of the major-label hubs of Nashville, New York and LA... And it all started here!
Bud Mosley & The Whippoorwills "Bud Mosley Sings And Plays His Own Compositions" (Skylark Records, 196-?) (LP)
An uber-uber-indie homemade LP by a young piano plunker from Graham, Texas who wrote all eight songs and sang in a style that rang somewhere between Mickey Gilley and Moon Mullican, mixing blues and country. The audio production is pretty low-end, sounding echo-y and sparse, with the piano and vocals up-front and the backing instruments (including pedal steel and an organ) way in the background: I wouldn't be surprised to learn if this was actually recorded in someone's house with a reel-to-reel and a single microphone. To underscore the DIY-ishness of it all, the back cover is a white blank, with no info about Mosley or his musicians. Years later he resurfaced in Reno, Nevada, leading a band called Buffalo Country which also included his younger brother Jerry as the drummer.
Dick Mosley "From Nashville With Love" (Johnny Dollar Productions, 197--?) (LP) (LP)
One of the stable of artists signed to Johnny Dollar's label in the mid-1970s... No info about this guy, though the liner notes mention that he was born in Virginia
Frazier Moss "Fiddling With Frazier: Old Time Fiddle Tunes" (Plateau Records, 19--?) (LP)
Old-timey fiddler Frazier Moss was born in the rural backwoods of Tennessee in 1910, learning to play music when he was very young, though he worked as a carpenter for most of his life, until retiring to pursue music full-time. Over the course of several years, Moss won over a hundred fiddling competitions(!) and riding on that success, recorded a couple of fine albums... This one is pretty much a back-to-basics fiddling set, with versions of standards such as "Blackberry Blossom," "Cackling Hen" and "Coo-Coo's Nest," though on his other album he expanded his sound quite a bit.
Frazier Moss "Live At Fairfield Glade" (Fairfield Glade Records, 1981-?) (LP)
Here the elder Mr. Moss hangs out with a younger crowd, and they add vocals and a wider musical palette, dipping into bluesy standards/string-band material and a hint of country, along with the rock-solid old-timey stuff Moss brings to the mix. Nice record!
Rich Mounce "Country" (Music Records, 197--?) (LP)
A purely private pressing vanity album from the 1960s or '70s, with classic country covers of songs by Hank Williams, Ray Price and Roy Acuff... The label was from Chenoa, Illinois -- other than that, not much info on this guy, though I think he played pedal steel of a number of local/Midwestern indiebilly sessions...
Mt. Airy "Mt. Airy" (Thimble Records, 1973)
(Produced by Bob Hinkie)
An intriguingly eclectic collaboration between singer-songwriter Tom Chapin (Harry's brother!) and folk/bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Eric Weissberg. There are a few softer folk-grass tunes on here, but this album is more insistently an experimental-psychedelic set, with Weissberg's banjo pushed into some very interesting rock arrangements... There's a hippie-dippie edge, to be sure, but also some very creative musicmaking. Definitely worth a spin!
Mountain Bus "Sundance" (Good Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Hurst & Dave Hemphill)
This short-lived Chicago-area rock band was super-ultra-mega Grateful Dead-ish, though on this album they imitate the Grateful Dead of the era, the more accessible, concise Dead of the American Beauty and Workingman's Dead albums, with a distinctively country-sounding undercurrent. Sure, you could be dismissive of how derivative they are, though on the other hand if you like that era of the Dead and aren't all immersed in concert bootlegs and want to hear more stuff like what you enjoy, this album is a darn good option. Apparently they got embroiled in a legal battle with rocker Leslie West whose better-known band, Mountain, claimed infringement on their name, a drag on the Mountain Bus's momentum that pretty much 86'd them, although the Sundance album has remained in print on and off for several decades. Worth checking out if you're into this brand of hippiedelic roots-rock.
Mountain Fever "Mountain Fever" (1972) (LP)
This super hippiedelic band from Georgia was different from the Minnesota band listed below... Their set list included a few originals sandwiched between some of the best longhair roots-music tunes of the era: Michael Nesmith's "Some Of Shelly's Blues," "Helplessly Hoping" by CSN, "Mr. Space Man" by the Byrds, and Dan Hicks' sardonic classic, "How Can I Miss You (When You Won't Go Away?)." They also threw in some country and bluegrass oldies -- "Uncle Pen" and Hank Thompson's "Six Pack To Go." Pretty classy, if you ask me!
Mountain Fever "At The Peak" (1983-?) (LP)
This band from Brainerd, Minnesota divided their album between country music on one side, and rock oldies on the other... The cover songs are all pretty mainstream, with versions of "Livin' On Tulsa Time" and "The Y'All Come Back Saloon" (for twang) and "Runaround Sue" and "Love Potion #9" and (eek!) "The Rose" for rock/pop. Amid all the singalong stuff, though, there are also a couple of originals written by guys in the band: singer Paul Bloom contributes "Jilted Again" while bassist Jim Hanson wrote one called "Carry Me Back." I don't think any of these guys ever really tried to "make it" in show biz: the liner notes tell us that Bloom already had a day job as an art teacher at the local high school.
Mountain Glory "Happy Is The Man Who Knows The Lord" (Two Dots Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Towers)
It took a little digging to figure out where these guys were from... The reissued version of this album makes it seem like they were from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, or maybe somewhere in Iowa, and while that's partially correct, it isn't really the whole story. Mountain Glory was a country/folk/rock gospel group founded on the campus of Pasadena College, in Pasadena, California by lead singers Dave Best and Mike Pitts, along with lead guitar Greg Morse and bassist Dana Walling. They recorded this 1971 album in Ojai, California before moving to Nashua, Iowa (of all places) where they took up a ministry for a year or so and built up an enthusiastic fan base in the heart of the Midwest. Eventually they returned to Southern California although apparently local (Midwestern) demand for their music was strong enough that a Kansas-based label reissued the record with new artwork in 1974. There's lots of original material on here, including "Cowboy For Jesus," written by Mike Pitts and "That Jesus Loves Me Stuff," composed by Walling. They may have done other stuff in the Christian music scene, but as far as I know, this was the band's only album.
Mountain Glory "Happy Is The Man Who Knows The Lord" (Tempo Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Towers)
Same album, different artwork. The Tempo label was from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, but this is a reissue of music recorded in Southern California, before the band came to the Midwest. (See above.)
Mountain Smoke "On Blue Ridge" (Smoke Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Hurst & Dave Hemphill)
A decent progressive bluegrass band from Oklahoma City, OK... They are probably best remembered as an early band for future country star Vince Gill, who is credited as playing banjo, dobro and guitar, as well as singing harmony vocals (...and possibly lead on a couple of tunes? I think that's him on "Rocky Road Blues," but there aren't song-by-song credits to verify that guess...) These guys were okay, though not dazzling, and at this point were working pretty strictly in the bluegrass style -- their second record had more of an outlaw country vibe, and the closest thing here is a cover of Arlo Guthrie's stoner anthem, "Comin' Into Los Angeles"; otherwise, it's mostly a Country Gentlemen/Seldom Scene 'grass sound. Worth a spin, though, especially if you're a Vince Gill fan. Love that cover photo of him in longjohns and overalls!
Mountain Smoke "Lettin' It Slip Away" (Smoke Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Ford & Brad Smith)
An excellent mix of speedy bluegrass and thumpy, imperfect, pedal steel-laced, Jerry Jeff-styled indie-DIY twang... Dunno if this Oklahoma City band recorded anything else, but this record is a nice legacy. The title track is a nice composition by singer-bassist Russ Christopher, joined by other originals by guitarist Hal Clifford (the nostalgic "Mayes County," which I could hear being covered by some Nashville dude of the era...) and mandolinist/fiddler Jimmy Gyles who contributes an ambitious grassing-up of the classical canon in "Mozart Rondo." Of course there are a bunch of cover songs as well, an eclectic set that encompasses songs from Paul Craft, Bill Danoff, Rodney Dillard and Bob Wills, capped off by a swell medley track that eases its way into a nice version of "Fox On The Run." If you're looking for high-test hippie-era twang, these semi-longhaired Okies delivered the goods! (BTW - anyone know if the Jim Ford credited as the album's engineer was the same guy as the '70s West Coast singer-songwriter, or is that just a country music coincidence?)
Bill Mounts "...And His Midwest Cowboys" (Daven-Oka Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Mounts & Randy Best)
William H. Mounts and his family band, the Midwest Cowboys, were from Huntingburg, Indiana, and seems to have played local and regional gigs for a number of years. The group included Billy Mounts (lead guitar and steel guitar), Bobby Mounts (bass), Brent Mounts (drums), Brian Mounts (fiddle) and Bill Mounts (rhythm guitar and vocals). Alas, I do not know how they were all related, though I suspect most of these guys were his sons. The group went to Nashville to record this album, booking time at Pete Drake's studio, Pete's Place; as far as I can tell, they played everything themselves, and didn't get a studio band to play for them. There are seven originals credited to Mr. Mounts, along with covers of "Detour" and "Waltz Across Texas," as well as "There Won't Be Another Now" penned by Red Lane, and Gene Crysler's "I Didn't Jump The Fence." I actually came to these guys in a reverse-engineered way, first noticing them backing local star Larry Rollins on one of his albums several years earlier.
Ed & Doris Mucklow "Country Dreamers" (Crystal Clear Sound, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Ed Mucklow)
Independent country stuff, with most of the songs written by Doris Mucklow... This album includes pedal steel by Maurice Anderson, with Dallas, Texas indie stalwart Marc Jaco on bass...
Muddi Creek "Not Giving In" (198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ronnie Doyle & Clark Schleicher)
A pretty obscure band from Winchester, Kentucky with ties to the country/pop Top Forty band, Exile. Active from around 1979-85, Muddi Creek included Raymond Anderson Shepherd (lead vocals), Bill Kennon (lead guitar), Donnie Clem (bass), Craig Chapman (banjo and fiddle), Bobby Pearl (drums), Carson Chamberlain (pedal steel), Brian Moore (keyboards). From 1972-73, Bill Kennon was a member of the local, Richmond, Kentucky rock band The Exiles, which shortened its name to Exile in '73, and eventually topped the Pop charts in 1978 with the song "Kiss You All Over," later changing direction to become a chart-topping country band in the early '80s. Exile's driving force, guitarist J. P. Pennington, also performs on this album, playing lead on one track, "Just Came Back."
Muddy Bottom Boys "Slaughter On The Highway" (Grassroots Music, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mike O'Rourke)
Huh. I wonder if these bluegrassers from Portland, Oregon got any residuals from the O, Brother, Where Art Thou movie... Nah: they were probably too nice to make a fuss over the band name. Folks from Portland are like that.
Muddy Bottom Boys "Howdy, Neighbor" (Grassroots Music, 1981) (LP)
The Muddy River "Roll On Muddy River" (Vetco Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Lou Ukelson)
A forward-thinking bluegrass band from Spring Valley, Ohio, notable for isome early work by banjo player Pam Gadd, who was later in the reformed lineup of The New Coon Creek Girls, as well as her Top Forty band Wild Rose, which recorded few albums out in the early 1990s. There are two songs on here written by Gadd, "Big Boss" and "Kentucky Mountain Music," complimenting solid covers of bluegrass elders such as Vassar Clements, The Dillards, Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, and Larry Sparks. There's also a Stephen Stills tune, from the rock world, and some country stuff, including Mickey Newbury's "Tell Me Why", as well as the title track, which is a Vern Gosdin song.
The Muddy River Ramblers "Where I'm Bound" (Descant Custom Recordings, 19--?) (LP)
An ultra-indie bluegrass-twang set by a trio of youngsters from Brainerd, Minnesota... The liner notes say the three teens -- Tim Roggenkamp (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), Eric Roggenkamp (bass) and Cindy Kotula (guitar) -- got together as a band in 1978; this album couldn't have come out much later than that. The set list is all cover songs, but a nice range of tunes, ranging from truegrassers like Jim & Jesse and Flatt & Scruggs to Rodney Crowell's "Leavin' Louisiana In The Broad Daylight."
Maria Muldaur - see artist discography
Geoff Muldaur - see artist discography
Muleskinner "Muleskinner" (Warner/Sierra Records, 1973)
For some reason, I've misplaced my beat-up old copy of the Muleskinner LP. As I recall, though, in my senile haze, it's pretty similar to the Old & In The Way album reviewed below... A spirited, but somewhat raggedy acoustic album, recorded by what was meant to be a pickup band for a Bill Monroe gig on a local TV station. Maybe this isn't the most stellar bluegrass you'll ever hear, but it's certainly not the worst. The players were all top-flight traditionalists: David Grisman, Peter Rowan, flatpicker Clarence White, banjoist Bill Keith, and fiddler Richard Greene, who'd once been in Bill Monroe's band along with Peter Rowan. This is worth tracking down, just to check out what these guys were up to at the start of the decade, and also because it has an early example of Grisman working out his vision on a new acoustic music, on his original composition, "Opus 57," which later became a staple of his famed Quintet.
Muleskinner "Muleskinner Live" (Sierra Records, 1974)
I'm not sure what the difference between these two Muleskinner albums is; maybe this "soundtrack" album includes the complete live set or something... Apparently there's a video out, too, which is probably pretty cool. (Probably the best info online about this project comes from the Byrd Watcher website, which talks in great detail about Clarence White's career...)
Muleskinner "Muleskinner Live -- Original Television Soundtrack" (Rural Rhythm Records, 1998)
Bruce Mullen "Especially For You" (Scorpion Records, 1977) (LP)
Commercially-oriented indie country with what looks like connections to some Nashville song houses -- this album includes songs by Ronnie McDowell, and several writers attached to the Slimbull publishing company. Although he settled down in Washington state, Bruce Mullen's career took him all over the place. Starting out as a youthful rock'n'pop artist in the late 1950s, he became a protege of Bonnie Guitar, with whom he co-wrote "Auctioneer Love," a novelty number that edged into the Billboard back forty in 1974 (and is reprised on this album, along with several of his other singles cut for he Chart label in the early '70s.) Mullen had a long-standing, multi-decade gig playing at at old-west theme park called Buckskin Joe's, in Canon, Colorado, and similar venues throughout the mountain states and southwest. Around 2007 he and his wife Betsy shifted into religious material, and have released several albums worth of country gospel over the years.
Bruce Mullen "Especially For You" (Dixie Records, 1981-?) (LP)
Dee Mullins "The Continuing Story" (Plantation Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Shelby Singleton)
If you like bouncy country novelty songs, corny recitations and goofy Vietnam War-era topical songs, this one's got 'em all! The epitome of scattershot, see-what-sticks novelty-songization, this disc includes gems such as "I Am The Grass" (a first-person narrative, sung from the perspective of the lawn covering a cemetery plot); "The Continuing Story Of The Harper Halley PTA" (yes, indeed, a sequel to Jeannie C. Riley's hit, recorded for the same label); "War Baby," a semi-muddled song tying the benefits of the post-WW2 GI Bill to the patriotic efforts in Viet Nam, and "The Big Man," about a guy who was so full of himself he challenged God to prove who was stronger, with predictable results. Watch out for that lightning bolt! There are also a couple of melodramatic cheating songs about small towns and big rumors, all of it worthy of Porter Wagoner at his corniest and most over-the-top. The album's highlight might be "Beers," an endearing, nostalgic Tom T. Hall song about teenage drinking, which has the odd quality that no one suffers or is punished for enabling the underage boozing -- not the kids (who grow up okay, no car crashes or tragic DUIs) or the liquor store owners, who are praised for kindly turning a blind eye and letting the kids have their fun... Mullins, whose vocals remind me of Wynn Stewart, only recorded this one album and a few random singles. He didn't go very far, racking up a few singles in the Back Forty, but this record is certainly a classic of sorts... Country kitsch all the way!
Johnny Mullins "She's A Cheater Too" (Puget Sound Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden, David Frizzell & Shelby Singleton)
This was the first album by indie-honkytonker Johnny Mullins, and it looks like it took him a little while to get it made... Three separate sessions were recorded in Bakersfield, Nashville and Vancouver, Washington's Ripcord Studios, including some lead guitar by Dennis Payne. I'm pretty sure Mullins himself was from Washington state -- this record label was in Snoqualmie, Washington and his fan club had an address in the tiny nearby town of Packwood. All but three of the songs on here are Mullins originals, with others offered by producer Shelby Singleton and some other off-the-radar dudes. Mullins had some success as a songwriter, composing one of Larry Booth's early singles.
Johnny Mullins "...Featuring Honky Tonk Fever" (Sound Track Records, 19--?) (LP)
Larry Mullins & The Sugarbush Hill Boys "Close To Home" (Larry Mullins Records, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Hendrick)
Marinette, Wisconsin bandleader Larry Mullins plunked a bit on the banjo, but don't be fooled: this one's solid country, with a little splash of bluegrass on the side. Indeed, it's a great record, solidly in the post-Merle Haggard style of John Anderson and that generation of early '80s neo-tradders, though with a distinctly indie feel. All but two of the songs are Mullins originals, wiht the exceptions being a cover of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose" and gospel tune that closes things out. He pays tribute to his Rhinelander roots on "The Hodag Song," though most tracks have a more universal honkytonk orientation, as well as a couple of sentimental tunes in the 1930's style, most notably "Mother's Song," which is one of the best country homages to motherhood that I've had the pleasure to hear... The sessions were a little flatly produced, but despite the lack of instrumental oomph, these are really good songs, with really nice vocals. Two of his brothers, Marty Mullins and Rick Mullins, add backing vocals, building a fine family-harmony sound on several songs. If you get a chance, check this one out!
Larry Mullins & The Sugarbush Hill Boys "Bringin' It Home" (Larry Mullins Records, 1982) (LP)
Independently released country and country-gospel... Side One features kind of folkie material -- work songs about lumberjacking and in praise of the Wisconsin forests, as well as some old-school heartsongs such as "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again." Side Two includes a huge medley of classic gospel tunes such as "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder," "Farther Along" and "Life's Railway To Heaven..." My kinda gospel, to be sure!
Bob Murphey "Bob Murphey Country" (Lemon Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Andrews)
This is just a plain old, straight up weird record... unique, to be sure. Basically, this is a backporch recording of a grouchy old coot from Nacogdoches, Texas, bitching about everything from the Federal government and insurance companies to rattlesnakes and the price of snuff tobacco... He mutters crochetty bon mots in an old coot accent while young'uns nearby burst into laughter, and acoustic guitarist Cary Banks "accompanies" him, basically just strumming aimlessly while Murphey rambles on and on. I gather that rancher Bob Murphey, who was also a rural lawyer who had once served as the district attorney for Nacogdoches County, was quite a local character... I'm not sure how well his humor translates, though... I guess this is worth listing here, though maybe mostly as a warning to other gulls like myself who see the word "country" in the title and think there might actually be some music on here. There isn't. But at least you can be introduced to one of East Texas's more colorful characters.
Michael Martin Murphey - see artist discography
Dan Murphy "The Dan Murphy Show" (Appaloosa Records, 19--?) (LP)
A live, almost-solo set featuring acoustic picker Dan Murphy and bassist Lou Slocum, playing at a place called Boom Trenchard's Flare Path, in San Diego, California. Trenchard's was a World War One-themed nightclub that catered to SoCal's military personnel, a clientele that famously included naval petty officer Jerry A. Whitworth, who famously used the restaurant as a clandestine rendezvous spot for a Soviet spy ring throughout the 1970s. Whitworth was eventually busted and charged with espionage, but who knows what kind of hushed chatter and classified information can be heard in the background of this otherwise innocuous concert? Half the songs on here are Dan Murphy originals, including tunes like "Honk If You Love Jesus" and "Women Are Worse," which help tilt this towards the country side of things, even though the stripped-down lineup makes it seem like more of a folkie thing. Alas, no date on this disc, but it looks late 1970s, possibly early '80s.
Jim Murphy & The Pine Barons "Workin' " (Jimmur Records, xxxxxx) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Andrews)
Larry Murray "Sweet Country Suite" (Verve Forecast, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Andrews)
A key figure in Southern California's country-rock scene, songwriter Larry Murray is best known for his work with the trailblazing but little-remembered hippie-era band Hearts & Flowers, which also included future Eagles member Bernie Leadon and Rick Cunha. Murray and Leadon had previously played together in an early 'Sixties bluegrass group called the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, along with Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman. Between 1966-68, Hearts & Flowers recorded a few singles and two LPs, but dissolved just as "country-rock" was becoming a brandable, commercially potent genre. In addition to his work behind the scenes and onstage at clubs such as the Troubadour, Murray made his mark in television, as a writer and show runner for the influential Glen Campbell Show, later reprising that role for the Johnny Cash Show.
Mike Murphy "Live And Crazy" (Ramstar Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Pat Peterson & Bob Rice)
Joyce Murry & Bud Murry "You're My Woman, I'm Your Man" (Candy Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Murry)
Well, yeah, okay... This is one of those obscurodelic custom-pressing albums that is tailormade for those ever-witty, super-sarcastic internetters who enjoy mocking how people looked in the past... (Though, to be fair... man, look at that hair!!) The Murrys were a husband-wife duo from Memphis, Tennessee who appear to have written most of their own material and plugged away during the countrypolitan era, even though their sound was a little more rugged and old-fashioned compared to what folks were laying down in Nashville. In all honesty, this isn't the best country music you'll ever hear, although I did find myself charmed by this album, eventually. Mrs. Murry has a rough, sometimes problematic voice, though she's passable in a Melba Montgomery-ish kind of way and she sings lead for most of this album... Bud Murry was a flat-out bad singer, although she coaxes a few semi-okay performances out of him when they get into their duo groove. Overall, I admire their tenacity and sincerity, as well as how raw and old-school their music sounded. No info on who the backing musicians were, and though the album also doesn't include a release date, the laudatory liner notes by WMQM deejay Les Acree, mention Joyce Murry's 1968 single, "Stuck In Jackson," as having come out four years earlier. They released at least one other single under Joyce Murry's name ("If You Can't Stand The Heat"/"Only The Name Is Changed," neither of which are included on this album...) and possibly others that I haven't tracked down yet.
Gary Muse "The Kingdom Of God" (Adco Records, 196--?) (LP)
Gary T. Muse was a Cincinnati native who got religion and began evangelizing several years before he cut this disc. He was an awkward singer, but earnest and fully committed, though not, I imagine, a professional singer or public performer. This is one of those odd indie-gospel blends of country and bluegrass with the banjo and guitar mixed up front, but a wild, unrestrained steel guitar accompaniment deep in the background. Along with steel player Bill Brown, he's backed by Don, George and Jim Hardin, who seem to have been a roving house band for Ohio's bluegrass-oriented gospel labels: they also played on a Jewel Records album by Herman Croucher. The repertoire includes covers of the Carter Family, Ralph Stanley, Don McHan and the Speer Family, along with two originals by Gary Muse, "The Kingdom Of God" and "Nobody Ever Stood So Tall." The balance shifts between styles, with some tracks explicitly country, others more grassy, although both styles come through loud and clear.
The Music City Rangers "Country Sizzlers, v.1" (Pickwick Records, 1979) (LP)
One of countless anonymous "bands" doing soundalike records for el cheapo labels such as Pickwick, et.al. The set list is made up of contemporary Top Forty country and AOR hits... No idea who played on these albums, though doubtless a few notable studio musicians were in the mix, somewhere.
The Music City Rangers "Country Sizzlers, v.2" (Pickwick Records, 1979) (LP)
The Music City Rangers "A Tribute To Country Outlaws" (Pickwick Records, 1980) (LP)
Waylon, Willie, Jessi, and the boys are paid homage on this anonymous, el cheapo album. The songs are pretty much the hit twangtunes you'd expect, though there are also a couple of tracks that reflect Willie's successes with the vocal-standards genre -- "Blue Skies" and "September Song." What's most remarkable about this album is the long, expansive essay about the history of the 'Seventies outlaw scene, a surprisingly well-written piece worthy of Greil Marcus or Nick Tosches, although like the musicians, the author is uncredited in the liner notes.
The Music Farmers Old Time String Band "Nothin' After 1910" (Mission Records) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Replogle)
Along with the Whiskey Creek Old Time String Band and fiddler Kenny Hall, the Music Farmers were at the nexus of Fresno, California's 1970/1980s old-timey and bluegrass folk scene, with a fluid membership who were involved in several local music projects, including the informal live old-timey jam-session called the Dog Paw String Band. This album has a smoother, less "bent" feel, with strong ensemble playing that takes fewer detours into the more difficult strains of old-timey music and may sound more "bluegrass" to the casual listener. It's a fun record! The group included Doug Cornelius on washboard and jaw harp, Sue Enzerbacher on fiddle, Ron Murray playing guitar, Bill Hunter plunking banjo, Clay Dary on bass and a slew of friends and cohorts playing various other instruments, and many different vocalists. Sadly, there's no release date on the record, but "late 'Seventies" probably covers it -- the band got together in the early part of the decade, and the liner notes mention some current members joining around '72-'73... I'd guess around 1978 on this one.
The Music Farmers Old Time String Band "Things Are Lookin' Up" (Farmers Records) (LP)
The Music Mates "Don And Laurie" (RJ Recording, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Richard J. Peck)
This duo was a husband-wife team who had met in 1971 when they were playing in (an unnamed) rock band, forming a duo after the band broke up, and later moving into county music. There are a few missing data points on this one: Don was originally from Missouri, though the album was released on a label in Illinois, and no address is given for the band. The liner notes say they had been calling themselves the Music Mates for six years prior to recording this LP; I assume the band name is a pun on their last name, though unfortunately they never give their full names -- was it Mate or Mates? Apparently they performed together as a duo, him on guitar and her on percussion, with no other musicians, which gave them an unusual sound. They had groovy taste in twang, though... This album includes no originals, although their choice of material is intriguing and eclectic. It opens with a version of Hank DeVito's "Queen Of Hearts," a late-'70s songs that was a hit for Juice Newton in 1981 and included two Dick Feller songs (!) as well as "Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott," which is not a song you see covered often. Anyone have more info on these two?
The Muskrats "A Freaky Kind Of Country Rock And Roll Band" (Enterprise Records, 1972) (LP)
This British country-rock quartet was formed in 1969 by bassist Derek "Twiggy" Minton, and gigged around in the UK, Germany and elsewhere on the Continent. On this album, they played a couple of Merle Haggard tunes, along with the inevitable run-throughs of "Proud Mary" and "Me And Bobby McGee," and several other popular country covers. The album also includes three original songs, all co-written by guitarists Terry Allen and Pete Willsher, veterans of the UK's early '60s country scene who toured with the band (and may have played on this album.) These song include the title track, "A Freaky Kind Of Country Rock And Roll Band," as well as "Meanstreak" and "Pretty Girl Jane."
The Muskrats "Muskrats In Harmony" (Chandos Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Brian Couzens)
The Muskrats "The Muskrats" (SRT Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Richardson)
The Muskrats "Insight" (Sweet Folk All Recordings, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Alan Green & Derek Minton)
Billy Myers "Don't Cry Daddy: Nashville Country Rock" (Crown Records, 1970-?) (LP)
Wayne Myers "The Old Coal Miner" (Aard-Vark Recordings, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by John Jacobsen & Kenny Gott)
Born in Marshfield, Missouri back in 1917, Wayne Myers was an honest-to-gosh coal miner, though the material on this album covers a lot of other topics. Side One is gospel oldies, Side Two is secular country, mostly old-fashioned heartsongs. The super-DIY album has a plain white back cover with, alas, no musician credits and no info on the sessions.
Denny Myrick "Denny Sings" (Stoneway Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by R. M. Stone)
A businessman from Mobile, Alabama, singer Denny Myrick tried his hand at professional musicmaking, and even cut several singles throughout the 'Seventies, including some for "real" labels , including one for Musicor Records, way back in 1970. But like many before him, Myrick decided show business was more rewarding as a part-time gig, and stuck to his full-time gig in electrical engineering, or something like that. This LP was an atypical release for the Texas-based Stoneway label, which specialized in instrumental showcase albums, although Myrick had already recorded a bunch of singles for the label, dating back to '74. At any rate, Mr. Myrick is backed here by several hotshot pickers who had cut records for Stoneway themselves, including guitarist Danny Ross, fiddler Chubby Wise and steel player Bob Tuttle, as well as Robert Herridge ("the little fiddler," who worked at Gilley's nightclub and featured prominently in the movie Urban Cowboy.) The repertoire is heavy on country oldies, tunes like "Crazy Arms," "Faded Love" and "Invitation To The Blues," though there may be a few originals on here as well. A few tracks were also issued as singles, including "If I Had My Life To Live Over," which dated back to 1975, and newer recordings of "Ride On," and "Invitation To The Blues."
Denny Myrick "Sing, Denny, Sing" (Media Consultants, Inc./MCI Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Lonnie Wright & A. V. Mittelstedt)
As far as I know, this was Denny Myrick's second full album, although he also self-released at least one CD, years later. In addition to the songs on this LP, he also released a single on MCI, with two songs not included here, "Making Believe Don't Make It So" and "Till I Stop Falling In Love." Myrick had a penchant for oldies, and most of the songs on here are covers, although there is one original by producer Lonnie Wright, and a newly-penned song by Curly Putnam ("I Should Be Doing This At Home.")
Weldon Myrick "Pedalman" (Mid-Land Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by DeWitt Scott & Jerry Shook)
One of the most ubiquitous Nashville session players, Texas-born pedal steel whiz Weldon Myrick (1938-2014) played on countless recordings, and made numerous recordings under his own name, ranging from random singles to this full LP. These instrumentals deliver plenty of fancy picking, although with covers of material such as Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down The Line," or "Send In The Clowns," you might be forgiven for questioning the overall taste level. But hey, it was the 'Seventies, man. Not surprisingly, the backup band included a lot of other heavyweight players that Myrick had jammed with over the years -- in addition to producer-guitarist Jerry Shook, this disc included pianist David Briggs and Hargus Robbins, and others.
Hick Music Index